Georgia lawmakers voted Thursday to cut state jobless benefits. The savings would go toward re-paying $700 million borrowed from the federal government to cover unemployment reserves. The bill means people could collect benefits for up to 20 weeks, down from 26 weeks.
The measure would set up a sliding scale for jobless benefits depending on the unemployment rate.
For example, if the rate is 9 percent or more, laid-off workers would be eligible for 20 weeks of benefits.
Backers say the state has to repay the loan, and Georgia companies are already paying more in federal unemployment taxes because of the debt.
But others say the state borrowed the money because for many years it didn’t require companies to pay into the unemployment benefit fund.
Rep. Stacey Abrams is an Atlanta Democrat.
“We are going to balance our trust fund on the backs of the very unemployed workers who need our help the most so I’m very concerned about that," she said. "There have been some concessions made and I appreciate that but the problem is, employers dug the hole and now we’re asking the unemployed to fill it.”
A provision that would have required the jobless to wait a week before receiving benefits was scrapped. The changes wouldn’t affect anyone who’s unemployed now.