Wisconsin Republicans propose bill to end extra unemployment benefits

MADISON, Wis. (WISC) — Saying the government should not be “competing” with business owners for workers, Republicans in Wisconsin’s state legislature are proposing a bill that would pull the state out several federal pandemic unemployment assistance programs.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and State Senator Howard Marklein were joined by small business owners Tuesday morning as they announced their proposal, which would end Wisconsin’s involvement in the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program, the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program and the Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation (MEUC) program.

The bill would also ban the state’s Department of Workforce Development from waiving the work search requirements for unemployment benefits for any reason that is related to COVID-19.

Republicans argue business owners are having trouble finding employees and filling shifts because the federal programs provide more money than businesses can provide in wages. Despite that, Vos disagreed with the idea that employers need to raise wages further to compete or that the minimum wage should be raised.

“This is not a problem where we see the wages are not keeping up,” Vos said.

Republicans claim the additional federal benefits mean someone could earn $16.75 per hour on unemployment, while some employers they have spoken to say they’re offering $14 to $16 per hour as starting pay.

“This is a common sense way for us to show that we want everyone to go back and show what the Wisconsin work ethic really is, that we want to work, we want to support ourselves, that we have the pandemic hopefully in the rearview mirror,” Vos said.

Vos and Marklein say they hope to get the bill to Governor Tony Evers’ desk soon, but say they did not work with the governor’s office to see if the proposal would be something he would support.

“If there are things in the proposal that Governor Evers has concerns with, we have not spoken to him, but we are certainly open to negotiating,” Vos said. “The issue is too important to play partisan politics.”

The pandemic-related federal unemployment programs are scheduled to expire in September, but the bill being proposed in Wisconsin would end those additional benefits months early, and would mean Wisconsin would not get those benefits if they were extended beyond September by the federal government.

A total of 21 states have already phased out the additional $300 in federal unemployment payments.