Iowa state senator: ‘We’re out of the pandemic’

By: - February 25, 2021 2:08 pm

Iowa’s unemployment rate was up slightly as more people entered the workforce. (Photo by Jetta Productions Inc./Getty Images)

An Iowa senator advocating for legislation to cut unemployment benefits for out-of-work Iowans, said Thursday the state is “out of the pandemic.”

“The restrictions have been lifted in Iowa, our unemployment is back down near 3 percent. We’re out of the pandemic,” Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, said during a meeting of the Senate Labor and Business Relations Committee. “There are people who are troubled, who are sick, we are still seeing the effects, but the unemployment has moved back to near where we were pre-pandemic.”

State Sen. Jason Schultz is a Republican from Schleswig. (Photo courtesy of the Iowa Legislature)

Schultz led debate on Senate Study Bill 1172, which would impose a one-week waiting period before a person can access unemployment benefits, reduces benefits for families with more than two children and eliminates additional benefits for plant closings.

The panel advanced the Senate bill. A House committee advanced a similar bill this week after a five-and-a-half-hour debate.

He said the bill was needed to ensure the long-term health of Iowa’s unemployment trust fund. “The unemployment trust fund will be the top, the bragging point in the nation, and yet it will also be sustainable. It will carry us forward generations,” Schultz said.

The bill would take effect July 1, 2022, a year after the effective date originally proposed. Schultz said the delay was so Iowa Workforce Development had time to implement the changes.

Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls, D-Coralville, responded after the meeting: “My message to Sen. Schultz simply is that over 100 Iowans have died in the last week from COVID-19. We are not out of this pandemic. We still have a long ways to go.”

Wahls added: “We have a long way to go before this is over, and the people of Iowa are looking towards their government for leadership.”

Sen. Nate Boulton, D-Des Moines, offered amendments to exempt unemployment benefits from Iowa income tax and to address issues with delayed claims and overpayment of benefits. Both failed on party-line votes before the bill passed.

Boulton and other opponents of the bill noted that Iowa’s unemployment trust fund is solvent and employers are not expected to face an increase in their payments in the coming year.

“Think about what message this sends to these individual families,” Boulton said. “We’re finding millions of dollars by taking them away from people who are unemployed through no fault of their own. Without care for why or how that has happened — $23 million disappearing from Iowans, because they won’t get a benefit in their first week of unemployment.”

Reporter Katie Akin contributed to this report.

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