Unemployment benefits for about 17,000 Pennsylvanians could be extended for up to 13 weeks under a proposal in the state Senate, but the commonwealth's business leaders don't want lawmakers to vote without first trying to address how to fix a system mired in debt.
"We're of the belief that the administration can go in and tweak the language, the legislature can tweak the language, so that benefits are retroactively paid. So there is a timing issue and there isn't a timing issue," said Sam Denisco, vice president of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce. "We want to get it right. We don't want to rush."
The Chamber is calling on lawmakers to take a look at a Senate measure that would refinance the state's unemployment compensation trust fund debt and toughen the rules on who's eligible for unemployment compensation. "That would … give the commonwealth the authority to take our debt and issue bonds to pay it off. Essentially, it is a refinancing of the debt, which would save employers tens of millions of dollars in the future. That's just sitting over there right now, waiting for action," said Denisco.
The House GOP hasn't decided whether it will support the bill. Majority spokesman Steve Miskin said right now the caucus is keeping an eye on Washington, to see if Congress extends benefits for the rest of the year. If an extension bill is passed by the state legislature after February, people could see a delay in their benefits pay.