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Municipal officials pleased with report on unemployment loopholes

Leaders of local cities and towns are praising the recommendations of a task force that urges the state to close loopholes that have allowed some nontenured teachers, crossing guards, and municipal retirees to collect extra benefits and pay through the unemployment compensation system.

“Massachusetts has a very liberal unemployment insurance program, but the proposal from the task force will make measured and reasonable changes to better balance taxpayer dollars while also providing the appropriate safety net for employees,” said Lexington Town Manager Carl Valente.

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Valente was one of 24 municipal officials from across the state who signed a joint letter to Governor Deval Patrick in late February seeking relief for some unemployment scenarios that they found — in Valente’s term — “outrageous.”

The unemployment compensation cases highlighted by the officials included a retired police officer who received a pension, worked paid details, and collected unemployment benefits; school-bus drivers and crossing guards who collected unemployment benefits during school vacations and other days off; and teachers who, after receiving notification in the spring that they might be laid off, collected unemployment benefits over the summer before being rehired in September.

The letter last winter was authored by Lynnfield’s town administrator, Bill Gustus; area communities with officials adding their signature included Lincoln and Wellesley.

In response, the administration asked for feedback from all 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts, and put together a task force to look into their responses and possible solutions.

David Rattigan may be reached at drattigan.globe@gmail.com.
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