Miss. House proposes increase in unemployment compensation

Published 9:52 pm Friday, January 19, 2007

Mississippi lawmakers are debating whether to increase weekly unemployment benefits for the first time since 2001.

The current rate of $210 a week is one of the lowest in the nation, said House Labor Committee Chairman Harvey Moss, D-Corinth.

A bill that passed the House 86-33 on Thursday would bump up the rate to $230 a week on July 1 and to $250 a week a year later.

The bill moves to the Senate, and its prospects there are unclear.

The House debate came the same week that upholstered furniture maker Alan White Co. announced it is laying off more than 300 workers at its facility in the northeast Mississippi town of Shannon.

It is the fourth such announcement in six months for Mississippi’s $4 billion furniture industry, which employs about 21,000 workers.

In arguing for an increase in unemployment benefits, Rep. Ricky Cummings, D-Iuka, said many furniture workers are losing their jobs because of free-trade agreements that are sending manufacturing operations oversees.

“Let’s not shut the door on the working man,” Cummings said.

The bill is House bill 296.