HARRISBURG,  May 24, 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.

“It has taken considerable effort and an honest look at our priorities to strike a balance between what is best for those who are laid off and those who are still working and paying the taxes,” Tartaglione said. “I am grateful that my colleagues have seen the wisdom of preserving and extending benefits during the worst days of the economic decline. Senate Bill 1030 recognizes the continued effects of the recession as well as the continued deficit in the trust fund.”

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.  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.

The provisions of Tartaglione’s bill became 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.

“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,” Tartaglione said. “During the recession, more than $15 billion in benefits were spent on food, mortgages, utilities and doctor bills.  Without that economic impact, we would have seen higher unemployment, more foreclosures and a deeper hole for families to climb out of.”

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.

The bill now goes to the House.