State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

GOP proposes a UC funding stopgap; Wolf says it's not enough

Written by Katie Meyer, Capitol Bureau Chief | Mar 31, 2017 3:33 AM
Capitol_TimLambert.jpg

A GOP-introduced bill could help keep UC call wait times down while the legislature works on a funding solution. (Photo by Tim Lambert/WITF)

(Harrisburg) -- For months, funding for Pennsylvania's unemployment compensation program has been one of the most contentious issues in Harrisburg.

A bill moving through the legislature is now offering a potential compromise, but many--including the governor--have said it's not enough.

The funding dispute began last year between the Senate GOP and Democratic Governor Tom Wolf, when the Senate decided not to act on Wolf's request for an extension of a dedicated funding stream for the program.

The resulting standoff ultimately led to the layoff of 499 state workers from the UC program, and as a result, call waiting times for people trying to get unemployment benefits skyrocketed.

They remain high today, and a long-term funding solution seems far off.

So GOP Senator Kim Ward, of Westmoreland County, is pitching a stopgap solution--a bill that would give the UC system $15 million.

That's a fraction of the $57 million Democratic Governor Tom Wolf initially sought for the program. He said he won't refuse it, but he also doesn't think it'll solve anything.

"We had a long-term solution back in the fall, and we should have taken that," he said.

The Department of Labor and Industry, which runs the UC program, agreed. In a statement, the department warned that if the stopgap money runs out before a better plan is in place, the system "could be forced into chaos again."

Wolf did applaud Ward, whom he said is "trying to do the right thing."

The bill has passed the Senate, and now awaits the House.

Published in News, State House Sound Bites

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