HARRISBURG,  June 17, 2011 – State Sen. Christine M. Tartaglione today praised Senate passage of a compromise bill that extends unemployment benefits and makes changes that will help shore up the Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund.

“I am grateful that my colleagues have seen the wisdom of preserving and extending benefits during the worst days of the economic decline,” Tartaglione said as Senate Bill 1030 headed for Senate passage today. “I believe we all realize that unemployment compensation is not just a lifeline for laid-off workers and their families. Unemployment compensation has also been critical in shoring up the economy, preserving small businesses and the communities they serve.

During the recession, more than $15 billion in benefits were spent on food, mortgages, utilities and doctor bills,” Tartaglione said.

“Without that economic impact, we would have seen higher unemployment, more foreclosures and a deeper hole for families to climb out of,” she said.

The Senate Labor and Industry Committee took language from Tartaglione’s Senate Bill 994, and amended it to Senate Bill 1030 to allow Pennsylvania to adopt a “three-year lookback,” and qualify for federal help that will extend benefits for as many as 130,000 workers.

Federally subsidized extended benefits are triggered by a state’s unemployment rate over a defined period of time, called a “look-back” period.  Using a two-year look-back, Pennsylvania did not qualify on May 21, and 45,000 Pennsylvanians could have lost their benefits as of June 11.  An estimated 90,000 more would have lost regular benefits and not qualify for extended benefits through the end of the year.

The provisions of Tartaglione’s bill were amended into Senate Bill 1030, as part of a comprehensive unemployment reform that will save money for the beleaguered Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund and require anyone collecting unemployment to actively look for work

The bill also includes a Tartaglione proposal authorizing “shared-work” programs, through which employers would be able to reduce work hours of employees as an alternative to layoffs and allow affected employees to receive prorated unemployment compensation for lost wages.

House and Senate negotiators agreed to a compromise bill that freezes the maximum benefit amount and makes other changes intended to shore up the trust fund.

The Senate unanimously passed the compromise bill today.  It now heads to the governor’s desk.