California ups unemployment benefits for airline workers
LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- California airline employees facing layoffs will be able to collect additional unemployment benefits under a bill signed Monday by Gov. Gray Davis.
"This bill will keep California's unemployment benefits current with cost-of living increases," said Davis, who signed the bill amid dozens of airline workers at Los Angeles International Airport.
Several airline companies have announced thousands of layoffs in recent weeks, both as a result of the September 11 terrorist attack and California's softening economy, said Davis, who urged laid-off airline workers to check into what benefits for which they may be qualified.
"Many of the employees that work in airline support industries may not be aware of their eligibility, including shuttle service employees, airport parking attendants, airport car rental agency employees and retail workers," he said.
The bill increases maximum weekly unemployment benefits by $100 per week beginning in January, and will rise by $200 per week in 2005. Despite California's high cost of living, the governor said, California's current maximum of $230 per week is lower than all but four states --Arizona, South Dakota, Alabama and Mississippi.
"This will significantly strengthen the safety net not only for airline employees but all those who have been temporarily laid off as a result of a softening economy, " Davis said.
Davis said $6 billion would become available from the unemployment trust fund generated from the late 1990s, when California's economy was booming. The bill marks the first time in 12 years that unemployment benefits have been increased in California.
The California Chamber of Commerce opposed the bill, saying it would result in substantial tax hikes on businesses throughout the state.
"[The bill] does not provide enough offsetting reforms to mitigate the incredible cost impact on employers," Fred Main, the chamber's senior vice president, said in a statement released Monday. "It also puts the unemployment insurance fund at risk of insolvency."
The number of people who could potentially benefit from the bill won't be known until employment figures are released next month.
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