Virginia Republicans Turn Down $125 Million for Unemployed
VIRGINIA REPUBLICANS TURN DOWN $125 MILLION
House Speaker also rules absentee voting amendments not germane,
Republicans avoid important vote for third year in a row
RICHMOND – The Democratic-led Virginia Senate passed changes inVirginia’s unemployment coverage that would have enable Virginia to receive $125 million in federal unemployment benefit funds.
Unemployed part-time workers who could not find jobs were on track to receive unemployment benefits this year following a party-line vote in the Virginia Senate. Democratic senators won the debate in favor of the expanded benefits, 21-19.
Unfortunately, the Republican-dominated Virginia House of Delegates killed the amendments Wednesday, 53-46, costing Virginians struggling to pay bills even more money.
“Unemployment rates in practically every locality in the commonwealth have been going up and many are heading into the double digits,” said Sen. Maime Locke, who supported the amendments. “This could help a lot of unemployed individuals and families as Virginians look for new jobs.”
Legislators met today to vote on amendments made by Gov. Tim Kaine.
Locke (D-Hampton) sponsored SB1495, which in its approved form extends unemployment compensation benefits to some military spouses. Effective July 1, employees who voluntarily leave their jobs to follow their spouses who are active in the military can receive unemployment compensation.
In a tough economic year when local tax revenues are unusually low, states across the country are competing for additional federal funds to boost their coffers. State officials are amending bills to qualify for federal money.
Virginia Gov. Kaine amended the senate bill to gain $125 million from the federal government. His amendments would give certain former part-time workers unemployment compensation. The suggested provisions stated that the worker would have had to have been available and actively seeking work comparable to their part-time base period.
And part-time workers would not have been the only laborers to receive a boost under the amendments. Had the amendments passed, certain Virginians who had exhausted their unemployment benefits and were enrolled in a job training program designed to give them entry into a high-demand occupation would have received up to 26 weeks of additional benefits.
Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-Annandale) said the measure would have helped Virginians who lost their jobs or needed part-time work because of circumstances outside of their control. He added that taxpayers are already footing the bill for the national stimulus package, so it is a mistake to preventVirginia from gaining those extra funds.
“These are historical times, and a lot of people have been hurt,” Saslaw said, pointing out that the economic climate in the country has not been this bad since the 1930s. “There are people who simply need help.
Democratic senators also backed the governor’s amendments to expand in-person, no-excuse absentee voting. For three years, Democrats have proposed versions of this bill in an effort to make sure all Virginians who want to vote have every opportunity to do so.
However, this measure has never made it to a full House of Delegates vote. House Republicans have not had to vote on the record regarding this important piece of legislation.
Sadly, that trend continues. House Speaker William Howell (R-Fredericksburg) ruled Wednesday that the amendments were germane, and therefore house delegates will not vote.
Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax County) urged legislators to support the expansion, pointing to high absentee voter turnout. Last year, more than 300,000 Virginians cast in-person, absentee ballots.
“This is a bill that has passed three times now in the Senate,” she said. “It’s one that Virginian’s are already acting as if it’s happened.”
The earlier version of SB1070 allows firefighters and other first responders to vote absentee. The expansion would ease the voting process for everyone.