During its very first public hearing, the legislature’s Labor Committee heard two unemployment compensation reform proposals that are first steps, although minor, toward safeguarding the state's Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund.

What’s more, the measures are also promising signs that maybe other, meatier measures may be heard by the panel.

Seasonal workers

HB 5210 seeks to increase the wages a seasonal worker must earn before qualifying for unemployment benefits. This bill brings to light a serious inequity in the unemployment compensation system between seasonal workers and year-round employees.  

Currently, unemployment benefits are based on the highest two quarters of earnings over the course of a year.

As a result, a seasonal worker whose total pay is earned over just two quarters—such as a summertime job--could receive the exact same benefits as a full-year employee earning twice as much as the seasonal employee's wages over four quarters. 

Instead, why not do what 16 other states do successfully? They base unemployment benefits on an employee's full year of salary so that weekly benefits more accurately reflect their former weekly wage. 

Ancient

Another well-intended proposal (HB 5265) would require employees to work for an employer for at least 30 days before becoming eligible for unemployment benefits. 

This would update a benefits threshold Connecticut started using more than three decades ago--an employee becomes eligible for benefits after earning just $600. But 31 states have much more realistic earnings requirements of between $2,000 and $5,000.

So whether the eligibility for benefits threshold is changed to a dollar amount (we suggest $2,000) or a specific number of days employed, the fact is we need to do something to update our current threshold.

More good ideas

While they’re on the subject, the Labor Committee should also consider proposals that would:

  • Require claimants to wait a week before receiving unemployment benefits  
  • Require claimants to post their resume online as a condition to receiving benefits after six consecutive weeks
  • Freeze the maximum weekly benefit rate for three years

We encourage the committee to adopt reforms such that other states have made and which can bring significant help to Connecticut businesses still struggling after years of increasing unemployment taxes.  

For more information, contact CBIA’s Eric Gjede at 860.244.1931 | eric.gjede@cbia.com | @egjede