Thousands of Missourians could get unemployment benefits after court decision

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JEFFERSON CITY - Thousands of Missourians are now eligible for unemployment benefits they may not have recieved after the Missouri Supreme Court's decision to uphold Governor Jay Nixon's veto of House Bill 150 on Tuesday. The bill cut unemployment benefits, lowering the maximum number of weeks Missourians could receive unemployment benefits from 20 to 13. 

In April 2015, the legislature passed House Bill 150. Nixon then vetoed the bill, and the Senate later overrode his veto during a special veto session.

With the override, on October 16, 2015, many of the unemployment benefit changes went into effect; more changes went into effect January 1, 2016. 

This week, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled the Senate did not have the authority to override Nixon's veto because of the timing of the override. Nixon vetoed the bill more than five days before the regular session ended, so the court ruled the Senate had time to take up that bill during the regular session and not push it to the special veto session. 

“I am pleased with the Supreme Court ruling,” Nixon said in his statement. “The judges’ ruling clarifies the law limiting when the legislature may vote to override a governor’s veto and is good news for thousands of Missourians who were wrongfully denied the unemployment benefits they had earned.”

Darin Preis, the executive director of Central Missouri Community Action, an anti-poverty organization based in Columbia, said he is glad that Nixon's veto was upheld. 

"We're still in a relatively unstable period with our economy, so the extra weeks of unemployment really provide employees the cushion that they need to get from their last job to the next one," Preis said.  "Wages are still depressed, so considering that, I think the governor was thinking wisely to veto the House bill." 

During those weeks of unemployment, Preis said people who are looking for jobs are trying to retool their experience and skills and make themselves more competitive to employers. 

"So those extra weeks can really make a difference, if it's taking a class, getting a certification, or just being able to pay the bills a little bit longer," Preis said. 

Columbia unemployment is reaching historic lows at under four percent, Preis said. He also said that the demographic suffering most in Boone County is African Americans, who have an unemployment rate of roughly 12 percent. 

Preis said there is still a lot of work to be done. 

The governor's office also reported, "Missouri’s average weekly unemployment insurance benefit of $243.63 ranks 43rd out of all 50 states."