Torr: Fixing Indiana's Insolvent Unemployment Trust Fund

Monday, March 30, 2009 7:00 pm

Start Date:  3/30/2009  All Day  
End Date:  3/30/2009    
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Indiana's unemployment trust fund is more than dwindling. It's in the red.

It's a problem we've been avoiding for years. The weekly maximum benefit increased every year between 1997 ($236) and 2005 ($390), but the premiums for employers didn't keep pace. With the highest unemployment rates we've seen in decades, something must be done now to solve this problem.

The House majority caucus moved nothing forward, ignoring House Republican suggestions and withdrawing legislation before a vote could be cast. 

The Senate passed a bill that attempts to solve the problem by adjusting weekly benefits, increasing premiums on businesses and addressing the problems of fraud and abuse. Some details: 

  • The maximum weekly benefits will start at $420 and drop to $320 over a 26-week period, with the minimum benefit at $50 per week.
  • The wage base for premiums increases from $7,000 to $10,000. Premiums increase from 1.1 percent and 5.6 percent to 0.75 percent and 8.2 percent.
  • Changes the definition of "seasonal employment" from 26 weeks to 42 weeks.
  • Expands the definition of "gross misconduct" to stop the practice of employees drawing benefits while awaiting conviction.

On March 26, 2009, the House voted to approve a dissent on the bill (HB 1379) when it returned for final approval. This means that the proposals will be addressed in conference committee, where legislators representing each caucus will meet to work out the bill's final version. I was selected as an advisor for this committee.

While I believe the Senate's proposals are a great start, there are more ways to strengthen the bill. We don't need a quick fix; we need legislation that addresses all the causes of our current problems. This is our best opportunity to make that happen.