Pennsylvania's Department of Labor and Industry said it will lay off 600 people because the Pennsylvania Senate did not pass a bill that would have allowed for $57.5 million in funding to administer benefits to the state's unemployed. The funding was for systems, not for benefits. Benefits are funded by a payroll tax paid by employees and employers.
During the recession when many people were unemployed and wait times on the phone to apply for unemployment compensation could last for hours, state legislators enacted special funding to upgrade the department's system. That funding ended. In October, in a bipartisan bill, the House voted to continue the funding into 2017. The Senate did not vote on its version Wednesday, the last day the Senate was in session.
The legislature has been criticized in the past for voting during the period between an election and the start of a new session with critics saying these votes may not reflect the new will of the people.
"The Senate put politics before people and now 600 employees will be without a job just before the holidays," Labor & Industry Secretary Kathy Manderino said in a statement. "It's beyond disappointing; it's disgraceful."