HARRISBURG,  May 10, 2011 –  State Sen. Christine M. Tartaglione today praised colleagues for including provisions from her unemployment reforms in legislation that was unanimously reported out of a key Senate committee.

Thousands of unemployed Pennsylvanians will lose their extended federal benefits on June 11 unless the state makes changes to its unemployment law required for a federal extension.  The Senate Labor and Industry Committee took language from Tartaglione’s bill (Senate Bill 994), and amended it to Senate Bill 1030, before voting unanimously to send the measure to the full Senate.

  “We all understand the urgency of keeping families afloat as the job market very slowly recovers,” Tartaglione said. “I commend my colleagues for the compromise that will move this legislation quickly enough to send to the Governor’s desk before the deadline.”

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 will not qualify after May 21, and 45,000 Pennsylvanians would lose benefits on June 11.  An estimated 90,000 more would lose regular benefits and not qualify for extended benefits through the end of the year.

Three weeks ago, Tartaglione introduced Senate Bill 994 to make the technical change to Pennsylvania’s unemployment law to allow for the extension.  Pennsylvania would join more than a dozen other states in extending the look-back period to three years, allowing thousands to keep their benefits as the job market begins to slowly recover.   About 97 percent of the cost would be paid for by the federal government.

 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.

 “Unemployment benefits not only help families through the Great Recession, but they also help local businesses and other service providers by putting cash into the local economy when it needs it most.”

Tartaglione, the Democratic Chair of the Senate Labor and Industry Committee, said she hopes the Senate will quickly consider the bill.