Governor Chet Culver has signed a bill into law that will expand unemployment benefits for many Iowans who’ve lost their job. Laid-off workers who’re training for a new job will be eligible for 26 more weeks of unemployment benefits.
The governor says state unemployment figures released this week highlight the need. "More than 82,000 Iowans are unemployed — 22,000 more than just 12 months ago," Culver said. "Eighty-two of our 99 counties have seen an increase in unemployment. Eleven…counties have unemployment rates right at or below 10 percent."
The new law also speeds up the process for collecting unemployment benefits. It means Iowans who’ve lost their jobs in this quarter won’t have to wait until the next quarter of the business year before they receive an unemployment check.
"This will actually help the economy recover by getting benefits out more quickly to more people," Culver says.
The State of Iowa will receive up to $71 million in federal funds to pay for the expanded benefits for the next three years. Republicans wanted to limit the expanded benefits to that three year period, arguing business taxes may have to go up in three years to cover the extra benefits, but Democrats overruled them and in the end all the Republicans in the Senate and most Republicans in the House voted for the plan.
Governor Culver signed the bill into law during a ceremony in the statehouse on Wednesday afternoon.
Privately, Culver signed 11 other bills into law, including one which changes the name of the Department of Elder Affairs to the Department on Aging. The department’s director says they’ll use the acronym D-A when referencing the agency. During House debate of the bill, one legislator said he would be offended if the Department on Aging went by D.O.A. the common acronym for "Dead on Arrival." The story gained national attention and prompted "Saturday Night Live" writers to include a joke about it during the NBC program’s March 8th show.