Jobless system moves a step closer to four-year funding solution

People wait in line to meet with recruiters during a job fair in Philadelphia

People wait in line to meet with recruiters during a job fair in Philadelphia in this June 23, 2014 photo. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The state House has passed a bill to fund the commonwealth’s jobless claims system for another four years, and the Senate will likely agree to it.

Last year, a standoff over financial mismanagement in the system resulted in nearly 500 layoffs from unemployment compensation call centers.

Lawmakers have struggled since then to right the situation.

The House-passed bill would give the UC program more than $115 million, phased out until 2021.

That’s significantly less than Governor Tom Wolf and other Democrats wanted. It’s also less money than the system was getting before last winter’s layoffs.

Officials from the union that represents many of the laid off workers say there will probably still be delays in UC call centers.

But Delaware County Representative Leanne Krueger-Braneky said it’s enough.

“I wish this bill went further,” she said. “But as a member of the Labor and Industry Committee I worked in a bipartisan manner with the chairman, the majority chairman, and I believe that this is the best we can do right now.”

The majority chairman, Republican Franklin County Representative Rob Kauffman, still wants to wean the program off state money. But he agreed that this is a reasonable solution for now.

“This is something that can get done before Christmas,” he said. “I believe this can be a good process for the Department of Labor and Industry as they look to get away from using state dollars.”

The Senate hasn’t made an official statement on the bill, but a spokeswoman confirmed Senators were involved in the drafting process.

Governor Tom Wolf has said he still wants to work toward getting the UC system permanent state funding.

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