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New bill hopes to cut jobless rates

A likely nod from Gov. Bob Riley is all that is left to write the proposed Reemployment Act of 2010 into law.

The legislation, initiated by Rep. Robert Bentley, R-Tuscaloosa, is designed to cut into the state’s unemployment rate. It would provide employers with incentives for hiring Alabamians who have been, or still are, under unemployment benefits. That means the 719 Pike County residents currently on unemployment, and others whose benefits have already expired, will have another chip to play in their search for work.

Businesses who choose to hire those workers, stand to claim a one-time state income tax deduction of up to 50% on their gross earnings according to the Associated Press.

The claim could be filed after the employee nets a year on the payroll, and only on workers making at least $10 per hour.

Marsha Gaylard, President of the Pike County Economic Development Center, said that while she has yet to review the details of the bill, she supports it so far.

“I would certainly be in favor of any kind of incentives that the legislature passes to benefit companies and get people back to work,” she said.

The legislation has been approved amidst the highest state unemployment rates in over a quarter-century. The Senate passed the bill unanimously Tuesday, after it previously received house approval. The Reemployment Act of 2010 could have some momentum to build on after it takes effect. According to the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations, employment in Alabama increased for the first time in three months in February.

“We are starting to see some consistent signs that our economy has begun a rebound,” said ADIR Director Tom Surtees in a recent press release.

Although the statewide unemployment rate remained unchanged, Surtees announced that wage and salary employment increased by 11,300 over the month-long period. According to ADIR statistics, the Pike County labor force improved to 13,522 from 13,497 from Jan. to Feb., while the number of unemployed dropped from an estimated 1,477 to 1,329.

Pike County has held a strong unemployment rate relative to the state, with an average of 9.4 percent compared to statewide 11.1 percent.