Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Tennessee approves expanded unemployment benefits

By Chas Sisk • THE TENNESSEAN • June 3, 2009 Tennessee's jobless are set to receive up to 20 more weeks of unemployment benefits, and employers are about to see their unemployment taxes rise, under a bill passed Tuesday by the state legislature. The Senate voted 29-3 Tuesday to approve the long-pending legislation, which supporters say will save the state's unemployment fund from insolvency and enact provisions from the federal stimulus package. An identical bill passed the House on Monday by a 76-19 vote. "There are a bunch of folks in this state that are depending on this legislation," said Sen. Roy Herron. The legislature essentially signed off on two plans that Gov. Phil Bredesen presented in March. The first raises taxes on employers by about $110 a year per employee to rebuild the state's unemployment fund, which has been hit by rising claims as the economy soured. Without the increase, the fund was expected to go bankrupt sometime next year — possibly triggering a federal takeover and even greater tax increases in the future. Business groups had supported legislation to address the problems. The bill also would expand unemployment eligibility and create a weekly allowance of $15 per dependent. The state must take those actions to receive $141 million in unemployment aid through the federal stimulus package. The bill also makes other revisions that effectively give out-of-work Tennesseans up to 20 more weeks of benefits.

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