Kaine proposes increased aid for displaced workers

Gov. Tim Kaine is proposing amendments to legislation on unemployment passed this year by the Virginia General Assembly that would expand unemployment elgibility to workers in training and workers seeking part-time work and would expand eligibility across the board for an additional 13 weeks.
“As we work to get our economy back on track, it’s critical we provide Virginians with the temporary assistance they need to weather the storm,” Kaine said in a statement released today. “The Commonwealth has the power—and the obligation—to make necessary changes to our laws that support displaced workers facing serious economic challenges.”

The state has already received $62.5 million from the federal government toward the extension of unemployment benefits, but another $125 million is out there that Virginia is currently not eligible to receive under current state law because the State Code does not offer access to unemployment benefits to part-time workers, people enrolled in job-retraining programs, workers with dependent children and workers with extraordinary circumstances including those who have given up their jobs to move with a spouse relocating to take a new job.

Kaine’s proposed amendments would allow an additional 26 weeks of benefits for people who are enrolled in job retraining, would permit people laid off from part-time work to seek new part-time work and would add an additional 13-week extension for benefits to the in-place 20-week extension on top of the regular 26 weeks in benefits.

The $125 million in additional monies to go toward these changes would pay for the extensions of the benefits as proposed by Kaine for an estimated 7-10 years.

The governor also announced on Monday action on protections for health-care benefits for laid-off workers with an amendment eliminating a proposed six-month benefits ineligibility period in insurance policies provided by small businesses in a bill passed by the General Assembly last month. The amendment also strengthens disclosure requirements so employees know what their health insurance covers. The federal stimulus package provides a 65 percent subsidy of health-insurance premiums under COBRA for nine months.

“This is a win-win scenario for all Virginians,” Kaine said. “Hardworking families get the support they need to survive the economic downturn, while cash-strapped small businesses get flexibility to do the right thing for workers without putting themselves at further risk of faltering during these tough times.”

Two other actions of note from Kaine today – regarding an increase in food-stamp benefits and a change in the name of the food-stamp program. The governor is pushing food-stamp benefits up 13.6 percent as a result of increased federal funding from the stimulus package. The increase will push the maximum monthly allotment for a family of four from $588 to $668.

Effective April 1, the food-stamp program will become the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.


– Story by Chris Graham

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