By Bob Katzen
The Senate 5-32, rejected an amendment that would increase from $500 million to $1 billion the amount of money that the bill would place in the state’s Unemployment Trust Fund which pays out unemployment benefits to jobless residents.
Supporters said that employers are currently saddled with paying back the $7 billion the state borrowed during the pandemic to stabilize the dwindling amount of money in the trust fund. Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), the sponsor of the amendment said businesses will find it difficult to bring on new employees while coping with the added costs of repaying the $7 billion. “It was not possible to plan for a global pandemic that would cost $7 billion in the cost of the unemployment insurance trust fund,” said Tarr. “They’re going to say, ‘Can I afford that new employee, can I afford that new group of employees, when I have my share of this $7 billion mortgage?’ It’s hard enough. We don’t need that additional obstacle to be any higher than it has to be.”
“Employers have experienced great hardship and I support funds to reduce unemployment costs, but the underlying bill dedicates nearly 10 percent of our total ARPA funds to this purpose.” said Sen. Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville) who voted against the amendment. “The [Baker] administration has presented no evidence to justify the added money, given the current positive trust fund balance of $3 billion, with only $2.2 billion outstanding debt. Until we receive that justification, I believe the level of contribution offered in the bill is sufficient for now.”