Business leaders want Pa. to act on unemployment debt before extending benefits

    As thousands of unemployed Pennsylvanians stand to lose their jobless benefits net month, the business community is warning state lawmakers not to rush into passing a bill extending the unemployment compensation.

    A proposal in the Legislature could extend benefits for 17,000 unemployed workers through April, but a business lobby wants lawmakers to try to make a dent in the commonwealth’s unemployment compensation debt with such a plan.

    Sam Denisco, vice president of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce, said Thursday that next month’s deadline isn’t even all that important.

    “We’re of the belief that the administration can go in and tweak the language, the Legislature can tweak the language, so that benefits are retroactively paid,” he said. “So there is a timing issue and there isn’t a timing issue. We want to get it right. We don’t want to rush. “

    The chamber is calling on lawmakers to take a look at another Senate measure that would refinance the state’s unemployment compensation trust fund debt and toughen the rules on who’s eligible for unemployment compensation.

    Denisco says passing that bill would address the state’s multibillion-dollar debt to the federal government for unemployment compensation.

    “That would take our debt — give the commonwealth the authority to take our debt and issue bonds to pay it off. Essentially, it is a refinancing of the debt, which would save employers tens of millions of dollars in the future,” Denisco said. “That’s just sitting over there right now, waiting for action.”

    Depending on the details, if an extension bill is passed after February, people could see a delay in their benefits pay.

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