All the Democrats and one Republican in the Iowa Senate have endorsed a bill that would help put the State of Iowa in line for more federal money for unemployed Iowans. Senator Pam Jochum, a Democrat from Dubuque, says if the state fails to act by March 10th, the federal funds will no longer be available.
“The focus of this bill is to help 7,100 Iowans who have exhausted all of their unemployment benefits, who have been laid off for more than a year through no fault of their own and to be able to access some federal dollars — to the tune of $14.5 million — to help these families,” Jochum says. According to Jochum, Iowa is one of just nine states that have yet to officially request the extended unemployment benefits for workers who’ve been out of a job for more than a year.
“We are pulling down $14.5 million in federal funds that are available to unemployed workers in this state,” Jochum says. “Those workers, in turn, will spend that money at small businesses and other businesses in our community.” The bill cleared a senate committee without a dissenting vote, but all but one Republican voted against the proposal when it came up in the full, 50-member Senate.
Senator Randy Feenstra, a Republican from Hull, says too many people are “manipulating” the unemployment benefits system. “I’ve heard quite a lot about this in the past where an employee will start work on one day, figure out a way to get fired the next day and then collect unemployment benefits,” Feenstra says.
Merlin Bartz of Grafton was the only Republican senator to vote for the bill. The Republican chairman of the Labor Committee in the Iowa House says he’s going to review the legislation to ensure there aren’t new rules or “strings” attached to the federal money.
A spokesman for Iowa’s Republican governor says Governor Branstad has not reviewed the bill’s contents, but will do so if it passes the House and winds up on the governor’s desk.