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Bill to raise unemployment payments blows through committee

Betsy PriceGovernment, Headlines


unemployment raise to $450

A bill to raise permanently raise the maximum unemployment rate to $450 a week had no opposition during a committee hearing. Photo by Charlie Megginson

A bill to permanently raise unemployment payments by $50 a week, but use state money for one year only to make sure employers don’t get hit by the rise, sailed through the House Labor Committee Tuesday.


Ed Osienski

House Bill 49, sponsored by Rep. Ed Osienski, D-Newark, received yes votes from all nine attending committee members and had little comment from members or the public.

It now goes to the full House.

Osienski introduced the bill Friday heading into the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend and immediately scheduled it in the Labor Committee, which he chairs.

He seemed at the start of the meeting to expect it to sail through, instructing committee members about how to sign on as co-sponsors when they were signing the bill backer before making other comments.

“This bill is time sensitive,” he said. “We want to get this done and through both chambers and on to the governor’s desk by the end of January.”

The General Assembly goes on break in February for budget hearings by the Joint Finance Committee.

The bill would raise maximum payments from $400 a week to $450. Osienski said all surrounding states already pay more than that. The increase would be permanent.

Using Unemployment Trust Fund

But the break for employers would only be for one year.

The bill would authorize the state Department of Labor to use money from the Unemployment Trust Fund, which is normally funded from a portion of employer-paid taxes.

That fund was depleted during the pandemic, but Gov. John Carney used $400 of federal COVID-19 relief money to replenish it, Osienski said.


Rich Collins

“We want to make sure the employers are getting the tax assessment decrease retroactive by Jan. 1, 2023,” Osienski said.

Rep. Rich Collins, R-Millsboro, wanted to know why the state would pay more money to keep people off a job.

Darryl Scott of the Department of Labor said that most workers on unemployment are only paid 56% of the salary they had been earning. Other states pay up to 66%, he said.

Therefore, Scott said, there’s no incentive for a worker to stay on unemployment when the worker is only making about half of what he or she had been making before.

“I will tell you that it’s not something that individuals choose to do,” Scott said.

The state pays unemployment for 26 weeks. In December, it was paying 4,000 people.

Collins also wanted to know the impact using state funds would have.

Scott said the trust fund is considered solvent when it has at least $270 million. At $400 million, it easily could be used to pay the employer portion of any additional tax.

That would save employers in Delaware $50 million in 2023, the bill said.

Scott estimated that doing so would only cost the fund $1.9 million in 2023. In 2024 and 2025, it would be about $2.2 million, Scott said.

Last year the state collected more than $100 million in unemployment taxes, he said.

ALSO FROM LEG HALL: House moves to block federal tax on state’s $300 rebate checks

With the break outlined in the bill, he said the state expected to drop from $75 million to $80 million in unemployment taxes to $20 million to $25 million, Scott said.

The amount an employer pays varies according to the salary.

Delaware now has 79 rows in its current unemployment tax rate, he said. The bill includes a chart reduced to fit on the page, he said.

The state now is working on a way to simplify unemployment tax, which has dozens of variations. The department hopes to be able to work on that this year, he said.

The only organization to speak against the bill was the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce.

“Businesses large and small across every industry are struggling to find and attract talent,” Tyler Micik said. “This bill could only exacerbate that problem. Instead of supporting policies that increase unemployment benefits, we should be supporting policies and initiatives that attract individuals back into the workforce.”










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