By TIM ROWDEN
Jefferson City – State Representative Doug Beck (D-Affton), a member of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 562, is fighting back against legislation to cut Missouri’s unemployment benefits to just 13 weeks.
The Missouri House Special Committee on Employment Security is considering a plan authored by Republican Representative Scott Fitzpatrick of Shell Knob that calls for a sliding scale of available weeks for unemployment pay, triggered by the jobless rate. If the rate was nine percent or higher, workers would receive 20 weeks of benefits, but it would top out at 13 weeks when the rate is under six percent.
The state’s current unemployment rate is 3.5 percent, which means benefits would be reduced by seven weeks if the bill were to take effect today.
Beck said working people will be hurt by the decrease.
“There’s going to be a real possibility of people losing their houses, their healthcare and all these other things,” said Beck, who as a member of the building trades is familiar with the cyclical nature of some jobs and how little Unemployment Insurance actually pays.
“It’s a safety net,” Beck said. “I’ve never gone on unemployment and felt good about it, and tried to game the system. Especially at $320 a week, you’re not going to game anything.”
Beck said decreasing jobless benefits to keep costs down for businesses is unfair to workers.
“It’s frustrating to see this constant bashing of workers in the state,” Beck said. “I really wish we could go look at other options to raise the ability of our state, economically and everything else, instead of just trying to take it off the backs of workers.”
Representatives from Associated Industries of Missouri, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, the Missouri Retailers Association, the Missouri Grocers Association and the National Federation of Independent Business Missouri all spoke in favor of the legislation.