News Room

Lawmakers To Perry: Accept Stimulus Unemployment
March 3, 2009

Texas could receive $555 million in federal stimulus money if it changes the law to allow more people to qualify, but Perry has said he is opposed to using the federal rescue money to expand programs.

Written by April Castro, The Associated Press


Democratic lawmakers asked Gov. Rick Perry on Tuesday to accept unemployment money in the federal stimulus package, even though it would mean expanding the program, which he opposes.

Texas stands to receive $555 million in federal stimulus money for unemployment benefits if lawmakers make the changes the federal government requires to allow more people to qualify.

"Think of (the stimulus money) as a bridge to help Texans get over the troubled waters of this economy," said Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, a possible Democratic contender for governor in 2010.

Perry's office said he hasn't decided whether to accept the funds, a spokeswoman said. He has said repeatedly that he's opposed to using federal rescue money to expand government programs, which the state would eventually have to handle on its own.

"It's unfortunate that today some legislators decided to inject politics into the stimulus discussion," Perry spokeswoman Allison Castle said.

"The governor's office continues to review the federal stimulus legislation to determine what strings and stipulations are attached and the long-term economic impact to Texas taxpayers," she said.

The Texas unemployment rate jumped to 6.0 percent in December and the state lost jobs in three of the last four months of 2008, the Texas Workforce Commission said in January.

The unemployment compensation trust fund could be operating at a deficit by October, with insolvency not far behind, Texas Workforce Commission Chairman Tom Pauken told lawmakers last week.

To receive the full amount of stimulus money available, lawmakers would need to adjust the time period used to determine whether people are eligible for benefits.

Texas also is being asked to expand eligibility to include thousands of low-wage workers. Van de Putte said the change would help part-time employees like single mothers, college students and senior citizens.

Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, said not taking the money would be a "profound irresponsibility."

"Governor Perry represents the unemployed, those who are fortunate to have jobs and those who employ them in these uncertain economic times. There is no greater priority than the lives of Texans, which is why the governor has always focused on creating jobs and ensuring Texans have the opportunity to succeed."

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