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Labor Department: Unemployment insurance fund will be solvent before 2014

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State Department of Labor and Workforce Development officials updated the Senate Labor Committee on the status of the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund earlier today.

The fund, which peaked at $2.1 billion in loans to the federal government, is scheduled to become solvent again by the end of 2013, officials said.

Labor has imposed new regulations regarding workers who were fired for misconduct that have saved the state roughly $85 million, while an antifraud program is expected to save $100 million by March, according to deputy Commissioner Aaron Fichtner.

Roughly 49 percent of the state's 324,000 residents receiving unemployment insurance are in the first 26 weeks of eligibility. The rest are scheduled to have benefits phased out beginning in March if the Congress doesn't extend the added benefits, officials said.

Melanie Willoughby, senior vice president of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, updated the committee on the state UI task force recommendations, including: making employer UI experience ratings more equitable; curtailing benefits for seasonal workers; requiring stricter work search requirements for claimants, including severance pay to reduce benefits; and prorating the charges to employers, rather than charging just one of each claimant's employers.

The task force couldn't agree on whether to eliminate a current provision that allows UI recipients to turn down jobs that aren't similar in pay or responsibilities, or are in a different geographic area. While employer representatives supported the change, labor officials opposed it, Willoughby said.

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