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McCarter: Extended unemployment benefits for Granite City Steel shortchanges workers and U.I. Trust Fund

Senate Bill 1941, approved by the General Assembly on the final day of the fall Veto Session, is a poor response to the plight of unemployed Granite City Steel workers and abuses the principles behind the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, according to State Sen. Kyle McCarter (R-O’Fallon).

“I feel for the workers at Granite City Steel, but extending unemployment benefits is a second-class handout when working families want opportunities,” said McCarter. “Ironically, the legislation was sponsored by the same people who have been AWOL for years on real reforms to improve Illinois’ business/jobs climate. The same Senator representing Granite City consistently opposed or failed to support reforms to lower Workers’ Compensation and Unemployment Insurance rates and reduce other business regulations that hurt competitiveness and prevent job creation.”

Under SB1941, out-of-work Granite City Steel employees will receive an additional 26 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits when they exhaust their current 26 weeks. This plan is estimated to cost around $16 million. The additional benefits will be paid from the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, to which all Illinois employers contribute.

“The money in the Trust Fund is not the Legislature’s money to be giving out,” said McCarter. “Employers across this state have been paying higher Unemployment Insurance rates for years. And yes, there is $1.5 billion in the account, but that excess should lead to lower rates for employers. The U.I. Trust Fund is not a personal piggybank for lawmakers, but it appears it’s easy to give away other peoples’ money.”

McCarter said the story of Granite City Steel and other Illinois manufacturers who’ve closed their doors tells him it’s long past time for economic and government reform.

“The status quo of high unemployment and job and business losses of the past decade must end,” said McCarter. “If we’re going to return Illinois to prosperity and opportunity, the General Assembly should pass reforms that can turn around our struggling state economy,” said McCarter.