August 28, 2014

Plan for unemployment waiting period turned down in Iowa Senate

A proposal to require a one-week waiting period before a laid off Iowa worker could get unemployment benefits has been rejected by the Iowa Senate. Iowa is one of just 10 states that do not have a waiting period and Senator Rick Bertrand, a Republican from Sioux City, says it’s a consideration for businesses considering expansion or relocation.

“When you lay out all the things: yeah, cut corporate tax; commercial tax; you know, income tax — all those little things that become tipping points, this is just one of those things,” Bertrand says. Senator Bill Dotzler, a Democrat from Waterloo, opposed the move.

“I can’t believe that at a time when we’re just coming out of a recession and we’ve got high unemployment in the state of Iowa that you would offer…an amendment to this bill that would keep people in their first week of being laid off that would keep people from receiving any type of benefit at all,” Dotzler says.

Bertrand says Iowa’s lack of a waiting period penalizes businesses with temporary lay-offs, like Wilson Trailer in Sioux City.

“They close down once a year for maintenance and their 325 employees come in, boom, day one and they drop unemployment claims on the employer. So what does that do?” Bertrand asks.

“Well, it drives up their cost. Their unemployment tax goes up. It’s an additional cost in the long term.” Dotzler says Bertrand’s proposal is written in such a way as to cut the maximum number of weeks for unemployment benefits from 26 to 25 weeks.

“What we’re really talking about is ripping off unemployed Iowans at a time when we’ve got a fragile economy. They’ve got no other income. They’ve got payments to make. They’ve got children to take care of,” Dotzler said. “And we are not going to give them that first week of benefits that they’ve been entitled to for decades?”

Twenty-two Republicans voted for the proposal, but it was defeated because all 26 Democrats and Republican Senator Brad Zaun of Urbandale voted against the one-week waiting period.