116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
For tens of thousands of Iowans who lost jobs during the pandemic, state unemployment benefits were a critical financial lifeline. Now, remarkably, Republicans who run the Legislature want to shorten the rope.
House Study Bill 203 would change the formula for determining unemployment benefits, reducing weekly payments for many. Iowans would have to wait a week before collecting benefits and an extra 13 weeks of unemployment benefits in the event of a plant closing would disappear. Cutting benefits after plant closure would be particularly painful for workers in rural communities where employment opportunities are more limited.
The bill would also change the definition of 'suitable” jobs, requiring Iowans receiving benefits to take jobs that pay significantly less than the jobs they lost.
Republicans say they're concerned about the state's unemployment trust fund, even though the fund is solvent, holding nearly $1 billion. But taxes paid into the fund by businesses are based on the size of the fund, so a larger fund means lower taxes for companies.
That's why several Iowa business groups support the change. Unions strongly oppose the legislation.
Republicans serving business interests is nothing new. But what continues to surprise us is how little majority Republicans seem to have learned from the coronavirus pandemic.
The economic jolt delivered by the virus hit hourly service workers and other lower income Iowans particularly hard. Many lacked sick leave and other protections and benefits. They struggled to cover expenses and to find safe work that didn't expose them to the virus. Some had to wait for benefits that hit bureaucratic snags.
So our Legislature's response to that sad saga is to make sure these Iowans have an even harder time making ends meet next time an economic crisis hits. It's astounding how out of touch these lawmakers are with the everyday lives of working Iowans. Under the golden dome, it seems, the coronavirus pandemic that infected 338,000 Iowans and killed 5,500 is really no big deal.
Coupled with the Legislature's refusal to even consider stronger workplace safety measures, laws aimed at stopping pay theft and a higher minimum wage, the unemployment changes fit a clear pattern of callous indifference to Iowa workers, many of whom have been considered 'essential,” during the pandemic.
Lawmakers should scrap these unemployment changes and focus on way to make Iowans' lives better, not harder.
(319) 398-8262; email@example.com