Iowa’s governor proposes changes in rules for unemployment benefits

Gov. Kim Reynolds. [courtesy Radio Iowa]

By O. Kay Henderson, Radio Iowa
Governor Kim Reynolds plans to ask the Iowa legislature to approve new job-search requirements for Iowans who qualify for unemployment benefits.

Reynolds is proposing that Iowans receiving unemployment checks be required to check in weekly with a state worker about job openings in their area and — with the exception of union members — unemployed Iowans will have to prove they’ve applied for at least four jobs.

“The agency’s primary focus will be on rapid re-employment,” Reynolds says.

Reynolds says some of the changes will require legislative approval. Iowa Workforce Development director Beth Townsend says her agency needs “a re-set” since Iowa is in the midst of a workforce shortage.

“Our goal therefore must be to return unemployment to its original mission,” Townsend says, “a short term, transitory program with a focus on re-employment as quickly as possible.”

Iowa businesses have listed more than 86,000 job openings on the agency’s website. Townsend says nearly 68,000 Iowans are qualified for unemployment benefits today. Townsend plans to hire 18 people to counsel unemployed Iowans and she will seek to redefine what qualifies as work search activities that are required of Iowans receiving jobless benefits.

“Utilizing new technology and additional career planners, IWD will provide one on one contact on a weekly basis to those on unemployment to help them find that next job in the shortest time possible,” Townsend says. “…(The agency) will compare individual work history with labor market information to proactively and systemically match claimants with open positions in their community.”

Townsend says the weekly check-ins would be able to happen on-line or in-person at 18 Iowa Workforce Development locations around the state. Reynolds and Townsend made the announcement this morning during a news conference staged on the manufacturing floor of an Adel business.