House vote sends unemployment reform to governor’s desk

Posted May 1, 2014 at 11:00 am

For years, many Missouri employers have relied on the federal Shared-Work Program to help avoid layoffs during temporary work slowdowns. The program has protected Missouri families from economic swings and allowed businesses to retain their skilled workers. Now, state lawmakers must act this year to allow Missourians to continue to access this beneficial program.

Under the Shared-Work Program, during a temporary decline in business, participating companies can reduce the hours of their permanent employees, allowing them to collect partial unemployment payments to make up for lost wages.

On April 23, the Missouri Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 844, which would make necessary changes to Missouri’s statutes to make it possible for businesses in Missouri to continue using the Shared-Work Program. State labor officials have said that unless the bill is passed and enacted by Aug. 22, 2014, the program will end in Missouri. Senate Bill 844, sponsored by Sen. Bob Dixon, a Republican from Springfield, contains an emergency clause allowing the bill to take effect immediately upon the governor’s signature. It must still pass the House of Representatives before the legislative session ends on May 16.

“The shared work program has been a valuable tool used by many of our state’s employers over the years. We feel this is truly a win-win program, helping businesses retain the employees they need while ensuring workers are paid during slow periods,” said Daniel P. Mehan, Missouri Chamber president and CEO. “We thank the Senate for their vote and we are asking the House to quickly act as well.”

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry (www.mochamber.com) was founded in 1923 and is the largest business organization in Missouri, representing almost 3,000 employers, providing more than 425,000 jobs for Missourians.

by Karen Buschmann

Vice President of Communications

Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Missouri lawmakers and the state’s business community agree — employees who are fired for stealing or doing drugs on the job shouldn’t be rewarded for these activities. Now, we will see if Gov. Jay Nixon agrees as well.

On Tuesday April 30, the Missouri House of Representatives approved Senate Bill 510 by a 107-45 bipartisan vote. The bill now goes to the governor’s desk. The proposal would change Missouri’s standards that dictate which employees are allowed to receive unemployment benefits upon termination. Currently, Missouri’s unemployment benefits laws are far too inclusive, effectively rewarding some employees who willfully break workplace rules.

“Missouri businesses are fortunate to have an outstanding workforce. Unfortunately, current state law is allowing a few bad apples to take advantage of the unemployment compensation system,” said Daniel P. Mehan, Missouri Chamber president and CEO. “Allowing these rightfully terminated employees into our unemployment system has contributed the federal huge debt that Missouri businesses must now repay. This is bad for all Missourians and it’s time for this to stop.”

During the recent economic recession, the state’s unemployment system had to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal government to pay for the influx Missourians who were qualifying for unemployment benefits. Missouri is one of 13 states that remain indebted to the federal government. Missouri currently owes $270 million. In addition to penalties, interest on the debt grows at a rate of approximately $12 million a year.

“As we focus on growing our economy, this debt is a significant hurdle. We’d like to thank the legislature for addressing this problem,” said Mehan. “This bill will help reduce our debt and make it less likely our employers will face this burden again in the future. Now, we call on the governor to join our consensus and sign this bill.”

Senate Bill 510 is sponsored by Sen. Will Kraus, R-Lee’s Summit.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry (www.mochamber.com) was founded in 1923 and is the largest business organization in Missouri, representing almost 3,000 employers, providing more than 425,000 jobs for Missourians.