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Employers say extra unemployment benefit is keeping workforce at home

Published: May. 11, 2021 at 8:46 PM CDT|Updated: May. 11, 2021 at 8:48 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WBAY) - Concerns are growing among those in the business community over the number of open jobs and a lack of workers right now.

This led the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, or WMC, to send a letter to Governor Evers Tuesday asking that he pull the state out of the federal unemployment program that gives people extra weekly benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The lobbyist group says the inability among employers to hire, has now reached “a crisis level.”

“This in an additional $300 a week individuals are receiving, and unfortunately it’s keeping people on the sidelines. It’s paying people not to work. We’re asking the governor to incentivize work and get people back on the job,” said Nick Novak, vice president of communications for WMC.

Novak says employers not only have to compete with each other but also with unemployment benefits which allow people to receive up to $670 per week. That’s an average of $16.75 per hour.

However, some Democrats say that’s only half the story.

“My office handles a number of UI [unemployment insurance] cases in my district, and those stories are not stories of people who don’t want to work, they’re stories of people who desperately want to work and have many challenges in life that are making that difficult,” said Rep. Lee Snodgrass of Appleton.

Instead, Snodgrass says the focus should be on raising the minimum wage and addressing the high cost of child care.

Republicans say the need for the extra unemployment stimulus has expired.

Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke added, “Our unemployment rate is a low four percent. I don’t think this qualifies as an emergency any more, so paying people more to stay home at a time when there’s thousands of jobs available isn’t a wise thing to do.”

Action 2 News reached out the governor’s office, which hasn’t responded for comment.

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