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New bill targets unemployment benefit cuts for Idahoans

Republican Representative Julianne Young debating a bill on the Idaho House floor
James Dawson
/
Boise State Public Radio
Rep. Julianne Young (R-Blackfoot), along with Rep. Bruce Skaug (R-Nampa), want to cut Idaho's unemployment benefits under a new bill they've proposed. It would tie the length of benefits to Idaho's unemployment rate.

Two House Republicans want to cut unemployment benefits for Idahoans unless the state’s jobless rate triples from where it currently stands.

The latest statewide figures peg unemployment at 2.9% for December 2022. That translates to 27,956 people.

Currently, those who qualify for unemployment receive up to 20 weeks of payments.

The bill from Reps. Bruce Skaug (R-Nampa) and Julianne Young (R-Blackfoot) would instead index the length of time someone could receive benefits to Idaho’s unemployment rate.

The new minimum under the proposal would be 12 weeks of benefits when the state unemployment rate is 5% or lower.

“Or, as there are fewer jobs available, we pay longer benefits,” Young said.

For every half a percentage point increase, a week of benefits would be added for a total of 20 weeks.

The indexing plan would not keep up with month-to-month shifts in unemployment, though. It would be based on the average, seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for the third quarter of each calendar year for the entire state.

It would not account for regional differences in unemployment, which can vary wildly.

For example, rural Clearwater County reported a 5.2% jobless rate in preliminary data for December 2022 – the highest in the state – according to the Idaho Department of Labor.

Meanwhile, Teton County, another rural part of the state, reported the lowest unemployment rate for that time period at 1.6%.

The House State Affairs Committee introduced the measure without much debate. It still requires a public hearing.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

Copyright 2023 Boise State Public Radio

I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season.

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