LITTLE ROCK — The House on Wednesday approved a bill to cut state unemployment benefits.
The House voted 62-26 to approve House Bill 1405 by Rep. Mary Bentley, R-Perryville. The bill goes to the Senate.
The measure would reduce the maximum amount of time a person can collect unemployment benefits from 20 weeks to 16 weeks.
Also, a person’s benefits would be calculated by dividing his or her average former pay per quarter by 30 instead of 26, and businesses would pay unemployment taxes on up to $10,000 in annual wages per worker instead of $12,000.
Bentley told House members the state’s unemployment fund is “solid” at $531 million and said that with the state’s unemployment rate at 3.9 percent, now is a good time to give businesses some relief.
“Our employers have been overpaying now for years on their unemployment taxes, and this will give them the relief,” she said.
Speaking against the bill, House Minority Leader Michael John Gray, D-Augusta, noted that two years ago the Legislature reduced the maximum number of weeks of unemployment benefits from 25 to 20.
“Think about someone who has lost their job in a rural area that has to relocate their family to get a new job in the middle of the school year, that wants to work,” he said. “Think about the seasonal employees that choose to live in Arkansas, but if they live in Texas, Tennessee or Louisiana could receive 26 weeks of unemployment benefits.