Increase in Unemployment Benefits
Signed by Governor
May 29, 2008
Alaska Governor Sarah Palin signed Senate Bill 120 into law Wednesday
raising the maximum unemployment compensation amount from $248
a week to $370 a week ($992 monthly to $1480 monthly). Workers
will pay a slightly higher tax - approximately 71 cents per week
- and have to earn $2,500 instead of $1,000 to qualify.
The legislation was introduced by the Senate Labor & Commerce
Committee under Chair Johnny Ellis. "This increase is especially
needed in light of today's rapidly rising energy and food costs,"
noted Senator Ellis. "It was long overdue."
Despite repeated attempts to adjust the amount, unemployment
insurance benefits had remained static for over a decade, driving
Alaska to last place among states in the ability to replace lost
wages. The new amount now puts Alaska in the middle.
This year the bill passed both houses of the Legislature without
a dissenting vote. Credit for the turnaround goes to the collaborative
approach taken by Ellis and his committee. Soon after this Legislature
convened, Ellis gathered a diverse group of stakeholders in an
ultimately successful attempt to forge a consensus bill that
could be supported by both labor and business. Legislators were
also a part of the group, including Rep. Harry Crawford (D-Anchorage)
who had championed increasing benefits in the past and who sponsored
similar legislation in the House.
"After watching everyone butt heads over this issue in past
years, I was willing to go along with a new approach," said
Crawford. "I'm extremely gratified that we finally found
a way to make this happen."
According to Ellis, the key to breaking the logjam was crafting
a bill that shared the cost between workers and employers, without
unduly disadvantaging either side. After considering and rejecting
a number of proposals brought forth by the stakeholders group
legislators settled on a way to shift significant costs away
from employers while preserving workers' access to benefits.
UI taxes are low today and will remain low under this bill.
"With very few exceptions, Alaskans who are eligible for
benefits now will still be eligible under this bill, while gaining
a larger maximum benefit," said Ellis. "This is a
win-win for both workers and employers."
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