Alabama House considering bill to cut unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to 14

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Amid near record low unemployment statewide the Alabama House will consider a measure that would cut state unemployment benefits.

The bill, sponsored by Alabama Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, has passed the Senate, but changes in the House mean the Senate would have to approve it again if it wins House passage.

Orr said the bill follows a model by other states that have gone from the common 26 weeks of unemployment benefits to 14.

“What’s happening across the states, particularly in the Southeast, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Missouri, Arkansas and other states, they’ve been taking their 26 weeks and moving it to, most of them have moved it to a floating situation based on the current unemployment rate,” he said.

Orr’s bill would provide an additional week of benefits for every half point the state unemployment rate rises above 6.5 percent, up to a total of 20 weeks.

Alabama’s current unemployment rate is 3.7 percent, below the national rate of 4.1 percent. Orr said that suggests there’s a ready job market.

“The thinking is generally that in low unemployment periods you should be able to find a job a lot quicker, than in high unemployment time periods,” he said.

The proposal also would provide a new benefit, Orr said.

“But we added something in Alabama that the other states did not, and that’s an additional five weeks for those individuals that want to get into a job training program to retool their skill set or that need job training,” he said.

If approved the bill would go into effect in January.

Alabama’s maximum unemployment check of $265 a week is among the lowest in the country. Orr’s bill would bump it up slightly to $275.

The bill is estimated to save the state’s employers about $56 million a year, sponsors say.