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Senate Passes Unemployment Insurance Reform

Boston – Senator Richard Ross (R-Wrentham) voted against legislation intended to reform the state’s unemployment insurance system. While the bill stabilizes unemployment insurance rates paid by employers over the next four years, it did not include the reforms necessary to sufficiently reduce costs for businesses. The legislation passed in the Senate and will now be presented to the House of Representatives.

“Massachusetts employers, particularly small businesses, continue to struggle with the high costs of conducting business in the Commonwealth,” said Senator Ross. “This legislation takes a step in the right direction by stabilizing unemployment insurance rates, but it would unfairly burden businesses that hire seasonal employees. I agree that this area is greatly in need of reform, however this legislation does not sufficiently address all sources of high costs for employers.”

Pursuant to the legislation, unemployment insurance rates will freeze this year. Rates will the freeze at a new rate schedule for the years 2015-2017. The bill also modifies an experience rating table that will require employers with high employee turnover to pay higher rates than more stable employers.

Due to the overwhelming number of calls that Senator Ross received from constituents having problems filing their unemployment benefits claims, Senator Ross filed an amendment to establish a special commission to study the process by which the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) adjudicates claims, to be sure it is doing so as efficiently as possible. The study will examine all claims filed since January 1, 2010, and will follow the claim from its filing to the final result, including the appeals and review process. The commission will make recommendations on procedures to efficiently and fairly resolve the current backlog of cases before DUA and will suggest any potential legislative reforms. Care will also be taken to include oversight, quality control, and transparency measures to ensure that this issue does not arise in the future. Senator Ross was pleased to see this amendment passed by the Senate.

Senator Ross also spoke in support of an amendment filed by Senator Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) that would create a special commission to study public sector retirees who work for a period of time and then collect unemployment benefits while also receiving a pension from that employer. Unfortunately, the amendment was rejected by the Senate.

Please contact the office of Senator Ross with any questions or concerns at (617) 722-1555 or Richard.Ross@masenate.gov.

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