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Iowa Republicans send unemployment cuts to the governor's desk

Reflection of Iowa's Capitol from the golden glass windows of the Wallace Building.
John Pemble
IPR file
Iowa Republican lawmakers passed a bill Tuesday to cut unemployment benefits.

Iowa Republican lawmakers passed a bill Tuesday to cut unemployment benefits, sending it to the governor’s desk for her signature.

The bill would cut the maximum amount of time Iowans can receive unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to 16 weeks, and it would require unemployed Iowans to accept a lower-paying job offer more quickly.

The final version of the bill does not include a one-week waiting period for benefits that was backed by Gov. Kim Reynolds and Senate Republicans. House Republicans insisted that it be left out of the bill, and Senate Republicans ultimately agreed to it.

Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, said he still considers the bill to be “a tremendous win for the workforce in Iowa.”

“So the decision was just made that you take the vast amount of win that we can,” Schultz said. “You don’t always get everything you want. And we just decided that we would let the House have this one.”

Schultz said he believes the bill will get unemployed Iowans into new jobs faster and give employers a tax break.

Democrats voted against the bill.

Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls, D-Coralville, said removing the one-week waiting period made the bill “slightly less terrible.” But he said the bill that passed could make the workforce crisis worse.

“It means hundreds of millions of dollars being basically taken out of the checking accounts of hardworking Iowans who have been laid off through no fault of their own and handed over to big corporations,” Wahls said. “That’s the big consequence here. It’s another slap in the face to Iowa workers.”

Rep. Michael Bousselot, R-Ankeny, said a one-week waiting period is a common-sense policy used in more than 40 states. But he said people working in the building trades count on a few weeks of unemployment benefits during training.

“The people who are going to have to…face the cost of a one-week waiting period were going to be our building trades,” Bousselot said. “And so the House decided to just stick with what we passed the first time.”

The bill passed in the Iowa Senate Tuesday with a vote of 30 to 14. It passed in the Iowa House last month with a vote of 58 to 37.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter