Governor Signs Osienski Bill Increasing Unemployment Benefit

DOVER – Delaware residents receiving unemployment compensation will see their first increase in the weekly benefits in more than 17 years thanks to legislation Governor John Carney signed into law Sunday.

Sponsored by Rep. Ed Osienski, House Bill 198 increases the maximum weekly benefit amount from $330 a week to $400 a week, payable to individuals seeking unemployment compensation benefits from the Delaware Division of Unemployment Insurance. The funds needed to pay this increase will be paid from the Unemployment Trust Fund.

“The unemployment benefit provides a vital lifeline to residents who find themselves out of work due to no fault of their own. The bills don’t stop coming in, even if the pay does,” said Rep. Osienski, D-Brookside. “It’s troubling that we have not increased this weekly benefit since 2002, which has made it more difficult for Delawareans to make ends meet during these times when they’re most in need of this assistance.

“Increasing the unemployment benefit will help working-class Delawareans pay their bills and put food on the table while they search for another job. This long overdue increase is especially important for workers in the construction industry. These jobs can be seasonal, where workers experience layoffs when projects are completed before they are rehired on new projects. I’m grateful we were able to pass this bill into law and have Governor Carney sign it.”

The maximum weekly benefit amount was last increased in 2002. Prior to that, it was $315. Raising the benefit to $400 per week would bring it more closely in line with surrounding states, as Maryland’s benefit is $430 and Pennsylvania’s is $561.

“We have worked hard over the past few years to ensure that our laws – from the minimum wage to criminal code – are keeping up with the needs of our constituents, the economy, and best practices,” said Sen. Trey Paradee, D-Dover, the bill’s lead Senate sponsor.

“But the unemployment benefit, which is one of the most important parts of our safety net, hasn’t budged since 2002. As the costs of everyday goods and services continue to rise, we have to recognize that inaction means a thinner and thinner chance of success for Delawareans that rely on this benefits and a harder road forward. I’m proud to have sponsored HB 198 in the Senate and thankful to Governor Carney for signing it quickly.”

HB 198 will take effect Monday.

“When Delawareans lose a job, they rely on unemployment benefits to support their families and get back on their feet,” said Governor Carney. “This legislation will make sure we’re providing the necessary support to help Delaware families get through a difficult time financially.”

“The decision to increase Delaware's weekly unemployment benefit was long overdue. Workers who find themselves unemployed, due to no fault of their own, cannot survive on $330 per week,” said Delaware Secretary of Labor Cerron Cade. “I look forward to working with members of the General Assembly over the next year to further strengthen one of our most important social safety net programs"

Also on Sunday, Governor Carney signed two additional unemployment compensation measures. House Bill 149, sponsored by Rep. Osienski and Sen. Jack Walsh, which disqualifies a person who obtained an overpayment of benefits through fraud from receiving future unemployment benefits until the total overpayment, penalties, and interest are repaid in full.

Previously, if a claimant fraudulently obtained unemployment benefits, those funds would be recouped by deducting from subsequently awarded benefits.

HB 149 will take effect 60 days after being signed into law.

House Bill 148 is an efficiency initiative, allowing the Department of Labor to deliver notice by methods other than through mail to reduce costs by using e-mail delivery for certain notices.