House Passes Supplementary Budget, Freezes Unemployment Insurance Rate

Diana joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives to pass legislation that, for the fifth consecutive year, freezes a scheduled increase in the unemployment insurance (UI) assessment paid by all employers.

This action is estimated to relieve the average employer from an approximate 30 percent increase for UI per employee while allowing employees to receive the same benefits under this rate. In the coming months the House plans to systemically improve the UI system as it addresses minimum wage.

Because the House recognizes the challenges residents face during the winter, this legislation provides an additional $20 million for heating assistance and about $45 million to provide low-income homeless families with access to housing. Additionally, the Department of Transportation may spend up to additional $50 million for snow and ice removal dependent on the state’s needs.

The bill includes a $15 million recapitalization of the Brownfield’s redevelopment fund which will allow the current pipeline of projects to continue and increase development opportunities on currently vacant and underutilized properties across the Commonwealth.

The bill also provides increased funding for the Department of Children and Families (DCF), homelessness programs, and the Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

“This supplemental budget includes targeted funding for time-sensitive programs and services. We provide $20 million for the federal LIHEAP program to ensure that the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable residents remain safe and warm throughout the winter months,” said Representative Brian S. Dempsey (D-Haverhill), Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. “We also implement an Unemployment Insurance rate freeze to encourage important economic opportunities as we progress through 2014 for both employers and workers. We also recapitalize the highly successful Brownfields Redevelopment program and include funding to cover the costs of snow and ice removal, supporting the many small businesses that contract with the state to keep our roads safe.”

The supplemental budget allocates $2.78 million to DCF, thus providing adequate funds to meet the department’s request of a 15:1 caseload ratio. This action follows increases in DCF funding over the past three budget cycles.

“Having worked with low-income families and abused children for years, I am thrilled that this budget focuses on the safety of our community’s most vulnerable population,” Diana said. “There must be a continuous effort to keep our children safe and that requires adequate resources. I was happy to see that this budget gained bipartisan support, as it will also assist in keeping our roads safe and clean through the remainder of winter.”

This bill passed the House 146 to 2 and now moves on to the Senate.