Senate proposal would cut unemployment benefits to 12 weeks

By: - February 8, 2022 7:14 pm

Union employee Raymond Belmaster spoke at a subcommittee meeting on proposed unemployment changes in the Senate. (Photo by Katie Akin/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Iowans would be eligible for fewer weeks of unemployment benefits and subject to more work searches under a proposal moving through the Iowa Senate.

Senate Study Bill 3096 takes a step beyond Gov. Kim Reynolds’ proposed changes to unemployment insurance program, which would end benefits at 16 weeks and introduce a one-week waiting period.

The proposal by Sen. Adrian Dickey, R-Packwood, would keep the one-week waiting period and tie jobless benefits to the state’s unemployment rate. In times of low statewide unemployment, Iowans would receive just 12 weeks of benefits – 14 weeks fewer than allowed under current law. The bill would also connect the work search requirement to the number of open jobs in the state. When more jobs are open, more work searches would be required. 

“This is a creative solution and certainly one that we would support to address the really significant workforce crisis we have in this state,” said Andy Conlin, a lobbyist for the Opportunity Solutions Project. 

But opponents to the proposal did not focus on the extensive mechanism changes within the bill. They objected to the basics: fewer weeks of unemployment and a one-week waiting period.

Much like the governor’s unemployment proposal, union members were vehemently opposed. They argued unemployment is an expected part of construction and other trades: workers go on unemployment between jobs, or as they wait for nasty Iowa winters to subside.

“This specifically feels like it’s only affecting union workers who actually enjoy working – who aren’t part of the labor shortage,” said Raymond Belmaster, a union worker with Local 1075.

Dickey and Sen. Jason Schultz signed off on the proposal, moving it for consideration by the Labor and Business Relations Committee.

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Katie Akin
Katie Akin

Katie Akin is a former Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter. Katie began her career as an intern at PolitiFact, debunking viral fake news and fact-checking state and national politicians. She moved to Iowa in 2019 for a politics internship at the Des Moines Register, where she assisted with Iowa Caucus coverage, multimedia projects and the Register’s Iowa Poll. She became the Register’s retail reporter in early 2020, chronicling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Central Iowa’s restaurants and retailers.