New Bills Could Limit Unemployment Benefits

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JEFFERSON CITY - Missourians could get fewer jobless benefits if the unemployment rate continues to drop.

Lawmakers approved a pair of bills that would limit unemployment claims. The first bill links the duration of jobless benefits to the state's unemployment rate.

Workers who lose their jobs currently can collect benefits for 20 weeks. Under the new bill, Missourians could claim benefits for 20 weeks if the state's average unemployment rate is 9 percent. For every one-half percentage drop in the unemployment rate, jobless benefits decrease by one week. Aid is guaranteed for 13 weeks, even if the unemployment rate dips below 6 percent.

As of March 2014, the unemployment rate in Missouri is 6.7 percent, which would mean 16 weeks of help under the new bill, instead of 20 weeks as it is today.

A different bill made changes to who can qualify for unemployment benefits. Currently, Missourians could risk not getting any benefits if they voluntarily leave their jobs without a "good cause" or if they perform "misconduct" related to their work.

Currently, misconducts includes any deliberate violation of the employer's rules. Under the new act, a violation of an employer's rule would be considered misconduct unless the employee demonstrates that he or she was not aware of the requirement or if the rule is unlawful. In addition, the measure defines "good cause" as anything an employer considers as a fit reason, such as illness or disability.

Governor Jay Nixon vetoed a similar bill last year.