Hard times ahead for Arkansas families?

People who are between jobs could face harder times ahead because of a bill that threatens to cut public benefits. Honest folks who are still struggling to find work in a weak job market could have their unemployment benefits reduced or eliminated because of House Bill 1489. This bill is bad for families. Taking away benefits could jeopardize the well-being of a child if the parents can’t pay electricity or heat bills, cover rent, or purchase healthy food. We don’t want to punish children by taking benefits for which their parents have already paid taxes.

House Bill 1489 proposes to reduce the number of weeks a worker can draw benefits from 25 to 20, and would reduce total benefits to unemployed workers by $50 million per year even though there is plenty of money in the unemployment trust fund. The unemployment trust fund already saw a huge cut in 2011, which reduced benefits by over $60 million dollars a year. This additional cut would mean a cumulative decrease of over $110 million a year. More cuts just aren’t necessary. The unemployment trust fund is solvent, which means that there is no budgetary reason to cut costs to this program. In 2014 the trust fund balance was $236 million, and it is projected to increase to $369 million by the end of 2016. We shouldn’t unnecessarily harm unemployed workers and their families when the unemployment insurance fund already has money in the bank.

HB1489 is also bad for our local economies. Almost every dollar of unemployment benefits goes straight to businesses in the community. Taking money out of the local economy and punishing honest people will not fix our job market. If we want to see more people at work, let’s make sure they have the education and training they need; thousands of jobs remain unfilled because there aren’t the skilled workers to fill them.