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Unemployment insurance changes

Published (5/20/2011)
By Nick Busse
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Employers would save an estimated $20 million, and requirements for those who apply for unemployment insurance benefits would be simplified under a bill passed by the House May 16.

Sponsored by Rep. Bob Gunther (R-Fairmont) and Sen. John Pederson (R-St. Cloud), HF1396/ SF1130* would enact changes recommended by the state’s Unemployment Insurance Advisory Committee. Passed 113-19, it now returns to the Senate, where a different version passed 65-0 on May 10.

The bill would remove a minimum 2 percent special assessment on employers that goes to pay for interest on federal unemployment insurance loans. Gunther said the change would save employers $20 million.

One potentially controversial change would repeal a law enacted last year to make it easier for those working at temporary staffing agencies to refuse work and collect unemployment benefits. Neither last year’s law nor the provision in Gunther’s bill to repeal it were recommended by the advisory committee. The provision was not included in the Senate version of the bill.

Selected other provisions include:

• expanding the definition of “immediate family member” to include grandparents;

• changing the qualifying requirements to establish a UI benefit account; and

• treating “paid time off” the same as vacation time is treated in delaying unemployment insurance payments.

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