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Wisconsin Republicans propose ending $300/week federal unemployment benefit, other programs

Published: May. 18, 2021 at 11:48 AM CDT|Updated: May. 18, 2021 at 3:03 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Republican lawmakers are proposing ending the supplemental federal unemployment benefits in Wisconsin, arguing that it is contributing to a worker shortage in the state.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Senator Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green) announced the new legislation late Tuesday morning, arguing the federal benefits including an extra $300 per week offered by the federal government is creating a disincentive to work.

“The pandemic is now under control and we need to get people back into the workforce so Wisconsin’s economy can continue its recovery,” Speaker Vos said. “The federal enhancements only keep people on the sidelines while businesses who desperately need workers struggle to meet demand.”

On Monday, dozens of Wisconsin Chambers of Commerce urged lawmakers to end the federal programs as a way to help them find new employees. In their letter, they also asked legislators to consider offering a bonus to new hires to encourage people to join the workforce.

The bill would end the state’s participation in four federal programs: the Pandemic unemployment assistance program, the pandemic emergency unemployment compensation program, the federal pandemic unemployment compensation program, and the mixed earner unemployment compensation program.

In announcing the legislation, Marklein said employers in his district are “desperate for workers.”

“They have significantly raised wages, are offering sign-on bonuses and are begging people to work for them. But they cannot compete with the generous federal unemployment benefits that nearly double UI checks,” he said.

A spokesperson for Gov. Tony Evers accused the Republicans of playing politics with the pandemic recovery with the new legislation, indicating the governor likely would not support a straight repeal of the programs.

“If Republicans are interested in putting this pandemic behind us, they’ll stop playing politics with our economic recovery and pass the governor’s Badger Bounceback agenda so we can invest in making healthcare more affordable, supporting our kids and our public schools, and building infrastructure and creating jobs across our state,” Evers spokesperson Britt Cudaback said in a statement.

The legislation would also bar the Dept. of Workforce Development from waiving work search requirements because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The lawmakers also noted that 21 states have opted out of the federal supplemental benefits, which are not set to expire until September 6, 2021.

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