Jobless aid rule may changeBill would give ND governor authority to waive one-week waiting period for benefits BISMARCK – North Dakotans who can’t get unemployment aid unless they’re off work for more than a week – such as hundreds or thousands laid off during recent flooding – would be helped by a bill being considered in the Legislature.
By: Janell Cole, INFORUM
BISMARCK – North Dakotans who can’t get unemployment aid unless they’re off work for more than a week – such as hundreds or thousands laid off during recent flooding – would be helped by a bill being considered in the Legislature.
Sen. Tim Mathern, D-Fargo, is offering a delayed bill that would change state law to give the governor the authority to waive the one-week period that displaced workers must now wait before they can qualify for unemployment insurance benefits.
Mathern said other states have laws that allow their governors to make such a waiver.
He is seeking the Senate Delayed Bills Committee’s approval to introduce the bill. The committee had not met as of Wednesday afternoon.
Under current federal and North Dakota law, people eligible for unemployment do not get paid for the first week they are out of work.
Though it is often referred to as a “waiting period,” it actually means that if someone is off work for only a week, they will never qualify for benefits.
If they are off work longer than a week, they will never receive aid for the first week they were without work.
The bill could be important to Fargo area residents and those in other areas affected by flooding this spring. During Fargo’s current flood fight, the mayor and other officials asked nonessential businesses to close for several days, causing many hourly wage earners to miss work and a paycheck for that period.
“It’s really not their fault their business is closed,” Mathern said of the workers. “Those people not being paid should have some sort of recourse.”
Governors are not allowed under federal law to make such waivers unless the state’s Legislature gives them the authority. Mathern said his research showed that in California the governors have been given the authority and routinely invoked the waiver during episodes such as fires.
Mathern said he discussed his bill with Gov. John Hoeven’s lawyer, Ryan Bernstein, but Hoeven had not seen the bill as of late Wednesday.
Spokesman Don Canton said the governor supports the concept, though he has not seen the bill yet.
Cole works for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Forum. She can be reached at (701) 224-0830 or firstname.lastname@example.org