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Bill Looks to Make Sure Jobless Coloradans Get Their Due

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 By Eric MackContact
April 27, 2009

Denver, CO - In today's economy every dollar counts, especially when it comes to unemployment benefits. But what happens when a family with two working adults has to move because one of them gets a new job, forcing their spouse to quit their job? In Colorado, the only way a spouse in that situation can collect unemployment is if the initial move was a military relocation.

That's just one issue state lawmakers are looking to address in a bill to modernize the state unemployment insurance system. Don Mares, executive director of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, says SB247 also would make sure a worker's most recent earnings can be counted towards eligibility, helping them get their full benefit.

"It's just good policy. These ideas really are helping the individuals who are in need of unemployment benefits."

Mares says the reforms are minor and inexpensive, but could bring over $120 million of new federal money to the state. Some opponents question the timing of unemployment insurance reform during an economic downturn, but Mares says the system needs to be updated, and right now is when Coloradans and the state's economy are most in need.

Linda Meric directs 9 to 5, the National Association of Working Women in Colorado. She says the reforms would give a boost to Coloradans who recently entered the workforce but then found themselves laid off.

"An example would be women who have moved from welfare into the workforce and then were let go."

Meric says unemployment insurance in Colorado is an important tool for keeping people off welfare, as well as for avoiding foreclosure and bankruptcy.

Unemployment benefits also have a positive effect on consumer spending, according to Kathy White with the Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute.

"Ensuring that people who are eligible for it do get their unemployment insurance helps all of us. It's really a benefit for the economy, more so than for individual workers."

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