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House of Representatives
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: December 7, 2016 02:20 PM
From: Representative Peter Schweyer
To: All House members
Subject: SUBJECT: Co-sponsorship of Legislation-Service and Infrastructure Improvement Fund (SIIF) Reintroduction
In the near future, I will reintroduce legislation from last session (HB 2375) that will extend funding for one year for Act 34, the unemployment compensation system’s Service and Infrastructure Improvement Fund (SIIF), through calendar year 2017. As you recall, the House passed this legislation 175-13 in October, with overwhelming bipartisan support. However, it received no further action in the Senate.

My legislation will maintain the current funding mechanism by allocating a portion of the existing employee contributions to supplement the UC operational budget and upgrade the UC computer system in the face of declining federal funding to the states for administration of UC programs. Specifically, it will authorize a transfer of up to $42.5 million to be used for operational purposes and up to $15 million to allow the start of technological upgrades to the benefits delivery system. It is important to note that the costs of administration of the UC program are primarily federally funded and were augmented by a portion of the employee contribution under Act 34. The UC program receives no General Fund revenues.

As many of you know, Act 34, which expires at the end of 2016, helped preserve and improve services for UC claimants. At the time the 2013 legislation was introduced, the Philadelphia Service Center had been closed due to insufficient funding, and our constituents throughout the state were coping with residual busy signals and long phone wait times during the post-recession period. Passage of Act 34 was a successful bipartisan effort to stabilize service center operations and systems in order to become compliant with Federal standards for timely UC payments, reduction of busy signals and faster appeals decisions.

This past session’s HB 2375 was also a bipartisan effort that would have extended this funding for one calendar year (2017) and included an audit of the SIIF by the state Auditor General to ensure that past monies were spent properly, help determine the extent to which additional funding is necessary to operate the UC system, and provide ideas on how to make the system more efficient.

Due to the legislature’s failure to act on HB 2375, UC service centers in Allentown, Altoona and Lancaster are set to shut down before the end of this month affecting 520 state Department of Labor and Industry employees working at the service centers and support offices at the Department. Unquestionably, these layoffs will create serious financial stress for many families in this Commonwealth including the families attempting to file for UC.

As lawmakers, it is our responsibility to promptly and fairly address this problem immediately upon our swearing-in on January 3rd.

Please join me in co-sponsoring and supporting this important legislation

Introduced as HB34