CLEVELAND - Unemployment insurance is a longstanding plan meant to help laid-off workers pay their bills and get back on their feet.
40 states including Ohio, now offer six months of benefits as the base level of payments to those who have lost their employment because of economic circumstances.
Allen Bowden of Cleveland knows first hand what they mean.
When he lost his 8-year job at a local printing plant, those benefits were a lifeline that helped him and his family stay afloat until he found another lower-paying job.
"I'm a homeowner. i couldn't pay my bills. I couldn't pay my mortgage...I would have been homeless," he said during an interview at the Cleveland/Cuyahoga County Bolivar Avenue offices at the Cleveland/Cuyahoga County Headquarters of Ohio Means Jobs.
Grace Kilbane oversees programs there. She formerly ran State of Ohio and Federal Government Unemployment Insurance Departments.
She says longstanding, unemployment insurance which goes back to the 1930's, has a dual purpose.
"It's part of what we call the economic safety-net for our country. Unemployment insurance is for workers so they can pay their bills and put food on the table, but it's also for the community "to absorb the impact of large scale layoffs and economic downturns, she said.
She also points out that laid-off workers need more time to retrain for more complicated new jobs.
Ohio and many other states had underfunded unemployment insurance plans go broke during the recession.
It had to repay a megabucks Federal loan, plus $245 million in interest.
Now legislative Republicans are attempting to address underfunding issues.
A proposal last year that would have reduced benefits to from 12 to 20 weeks if applicants met new requirements was met with stiff opposition.
Now after special committee hearings, a new bill is ready and Republicans are hoping to push it through a lame duck legislature.
A first committee hearing is Tuesday morning.
Rep. Kirk Schuring, whose 45th district includes part of Stark County, is sponsoring the new bill which was still being drafted Monday night.
A handful of business groups spoke in favor of last year's version.
The progressive group Policy Matters came out against it.
The group's research director Zach Schiller argues Ohio businesses need to pay more tax to fund the program instead of cutting benefits.
Ohio companies now pay a small tax on a workers' first $9,000 of earnings. The national average is $13,500.
Companies that layoff more workers pay more.
Schuring told Tom Beres he will release more details of the plan tomorrow after the morning hearing of the Government Accountability and Oversight Committee..
He said it would achieve a 50-50 split in new funding from new company taxes and "adjustments" in worker benefits.
A new bill would take effect in January 2018 and would achieve solvency within 7 years.
Democrats are lining up to oppose the new bill and delay its a vote until next year..
11th Dist. Rep. Stephanie House said benefit cuts would be a "true injustice" and that healthier businesses need to pay more tax.