February 6, 2019 - 3:16 pm - Posted in News

Des Moines, Iowa — (RI) — The state’s Workforce Development agency is proposing a six-month delay in paying the first week of unemployment benefits.

Unions are sharply critical of the move, but the plan got initial approval from Republicans on a House subcommittee Tuesday. Republican Representative Phil Thompson of Jefferson is a contractor.

Workforce Development proposes that the first week of jobless benefits be paid only after an employee uses up his or her yearly allowance of up to 26 weeks of unemployment. Three-quarters of Iowans who file for unemployment never reach that 26-week limit, so they would never get that first week of benefits. John Lowrey, an apprentice with the Carpenters Union Local 106 in Altoona, says he lives paycheck-to-paycheck and wouldn’t be able to pay child support if his first week of unemployment benefits is never paid.

Critics say some construction firms use Iowa’s unemployment system as a “wage subsidy”– workers claim a week of unemployment benefits while they’re off the job-site, undergoing training. Repreentative Gary Worthan, a Republican from Storm Lake, says that’s a problem.

Representative Kirsten Running-Marquardt, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, says the bill sends the wrong message.

The State of Iowa issued about $360-million worth of unemployment checks last year. About half of that was paid to employees who were out of work for one to four weeks.

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