N.H. House to vote on jobless benefits for startups

Under the bill, would-be entrepreneurs wouldn’t have to show that they are looking for work, but show that they are available for and participating in 'self-employment assistance activities'


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Some long-term laid off workers would be able to spend their time starting a business rather than looking for work while collecting unemployment benefits, if the House passes Senate Bill 143 today.

But passage is not a certainty.

The bill, which passed the Republican-controlled Senate, 13-5, in March might face some more opposition in the labor-friendly House. The bill was passed by the Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee, but by an 11-9 margin.

Under the bill – known as Pathway to Work – would-be entrepreneurs wouldn’t have to show that they are looking for work, but show that they are available for and participating in “self-employment assistance activities,” which are spelled out by the state Department of Employment Security, a supporter of the bill.

The Pathway to Work program would be open to 2.5 percent of the total number of unemployed workers, and they could only be offered by those workers who fit the profile of someone who is likely to exhaust benefits – those between 45 and 65 years old who are unlikely find employment in entry-level jobs.

Supporters said that he measure will encourage unemployed workers to create their own jobs, and perhaps provide jobs for others.  But opponents said that it might encourage people to stay on benefits longer, even while they are earning money through their new business.  Opponents also argue those involve in the program might start businesses that would compete with the company that laid them off – a company that would be subsidizing the new business through the unemployment system.

While the bill contains no language that prevents a new businesses from competing against the old employer, the bill does allow the Employment Security commissioner to cancel benefits if the new business is not deemed “appropriate,” a term that is undefined. 

The House is also supposed to vote on Tuesday on SB 100, a bill that would shift the decision about whether wages can be paid electronically from the worker to the employer.

Those supporting the bill said that the current law, which allows employees to insist on being paid in paper, costs businesses money.  But opponents noted that some workers don’t have a bank account, and payroll cards often come with a fee.

The House committee voted, 13-7, to kill the bill.  The majority added that employers could always convince rather than force workers to switch to electronic payments, and -- appropriating the language used so often by businesses vis-a-vis the government – “the majority [of the committee] prefer incentives and choice rather than mandate.”

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