Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon December 2, 2013

Lawmakers Take Aim at Bill That Changed the Way Unemployment is Calculated, Paid

Initially touted as making the state’s Unemployment Compensation Fund solvent, Act 60 was passed in 2012 and implemented at the beginning of 2013. A provision in the Unemployment Compensation Solvency legislation changed the way unemployment compensation is calculated and paid to workers.

“Basically what it comes down to is if you earn more than 50 percent of your base annual income in a single quarter you cannot collect unemployment under Act 60,” said state Sen. Wayne Fontana (D-Allegheny). “Seasonal workers work a lot in a quarter or two and then they’re laid off the rest of the year. So even though they meet the threshold for how much they make, because it was only in one quarter as opposed to spread out over three, they wouldn’t be qualified.”

Fontana is a member of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, which recently held a roundtable discussion on this issue at the request of fellow Senator Mike Stack (D-Philadelphia). Stack called the new requirement an arbitrary cutoff that is affecting thousands of Pennsylvania workers.

“It was intended to save money to the workers comp and unemployment compensation funds and what it does is just punish people by denying them benefits that they’re really, legally entitled to,” said Stack.

The employees affected include seasonal workers in fields such as construction and hospitality. Stack has introduced a bill that would revert back to the way it was before Act 60, with the limit being 63 percent of income in one quarter. Stack said other things can be done to help with the solvency of the Unemployment Compensation Fund. Fontana said he supports such a change.

“It’s a matter of fairness,” he said. “They work, they make their money, because they’re in a seasonal occupation they shouldn’t be penalized. There’s no question this should be changed.”