Missouri lawmakers and the state’s business community agree — employees who are fired for stealing or doing drugs on the job shouldn’t be rewarded for these activities. Now, we will see if Gov. Jay Nixon agrees as well.
On April 29, the Missouri House of Representatives approved Senate Bill 510 by a 107-45 bipartisan vote. The bill now goes to the governor’s desk. The proposal would change Missouri’s standards that dictate which employees are allowed to receive unemployment benefits upon termination. Currently, Missouri’s unemployment benefits laws are far too inclusive, effectively rewarding some employees who willfully break workplace rules. Senate Bill 510 is sponsored by Sen. Will Kraus, R-Lee’s Summit.
“Missouri businesses are fortunate to have an outstanding workforce. Unfortunately, current state law is allowing a few bad apples to take advantage of the unemployment compensation system,” said Daniel P. Mehan, Missouri Chamber president and CEO.
The next day, on April 30, the Missouri House gave final approval to Senate Bill 673, legislation that would tie the number of weeks jobless Missourians can receive unemployment benefits to the unemployment insurance rate.
Under Senate Bill 673, unemployed Missourians would be eligible for:
- 20 weeks of benefits if the Missouri average unemployment rate is nine percent or higher
- 19 weeks of benefits if the Missouri average unemployment rate is between 8.5 percent and 9 percent;
- 18 weeks of benefits if the Missouri average unemployment rate is 8 percent up to and including 8.5 percent;
- 17 weeks if the Missouri average unemployment rate is between 7 .5 percent and 8 percent;
- 16 weeks of benefits if the Missouri average unemployment rate is 7 percent up to and including 7.5 percent;
- 15 weeks of benefits if the Missouri average unemployment rate is between 6.5 percent and 7 percent;
- 14 weeks of benefits if the Missouri average unemployment rate is 6 percent up to and including 6.5 percent; and
- 13 weeks of unemployment benefits if the Missouri average unemployment rate is below 6 percent.
“Prior to the recession, the average number of benefit weeks was 15 weeks,” said Mehan, “So this legislation is not a radical departure from protections that are available to the average out-of-work Missourian.”
Both pieces of legislation are aimed at helping Missouri’s unemployment system become solvent. Following the recession, Missouri’s unemployment insurance had to borrow money from the federal government to cover claims. Missouri has borrowed more than $1 billion since then to continue paying unemployment benefits.
Missouri is one of 13 states that remain indebted to the federal government. Missouri currently owes $270 million. In addition to penalties, interest on the debt grows at a rate of approximately $12 million a year.
“Employers have paid millions of dollars in interest and penalties alone on this debt,” Missouri Chamber President and CEO Dan Mehan said. “We owe it to our employers to establish systemic reforms that will better protect the fund so that we don’t have this problem arise the next time the economy dips. Now, we call on the governor to join our consensus and sign these bills.”