Seattle Courant

In Olympia, Senate Passes Bill to Increase Unemployment Benefits

By Keith Vance
February 12, 2009 08:02PM

But whether you see a bigger check in your mailbox after May 3 will depend on whether you're drawing unemployment benefits from federal or state funds.

To figure this out can be a bit complicated, but here goes.

The way the unemployment benefits system works is that the state pays for the first 26 weeks, and the feds pick up the tab for another 33 weeks. But regardless of where the money comes from, the checks come from the same office.

So if by May 3 you're still drawing money from state funds, you'll get $45 more per week, and if you're currently receiving the minimum amount, you'll get that additional $26 as well.

However, if you run out of state benefits before May 3, you won't see an increase because the feds base the amount they pay on what the state paid you.

The Senate adopted one amendment to H.B. 1906 - sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla. The stated purpose of the amendment is to "socialize" the cost of the permanent minimum increase. It would do so by spreading out the cost across all employers, rather than using the traditional formula for calculating how much an employer pays into the system. The amendment passed without opposition. If it hadn't, employers that rely on seasonal workers, such as agriculture, would have seen their rates increase.

The four senators who voted against the bill were Hewitt, Sen. Bob Morton R-Kettle Falls , Sen. Mark Schoesler R-Ritzville and Sen. Val Stevens R-Arlington.

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You can learn more about the bill here.