Wisconsin Legislature votes to end extra unemployment

Updated: Jun. 9, 2021 at 4:42 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (AP) - The Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature has voted to eliminate a $300-a-week federal bonus for unemployed people, a measure that Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has made clear he’s likely to veto.

The federal payment, approved to help the unemployed during the coronavirus pandemic, is scheduled to end on Sept. 6.

Twenty-five other states have already approved ending it early, saying it has exacerbated worker shortage problems.

That’s the argument that Republicans, state and local chambers of commerce, trade groups and others are making for passing the bill in Wisconsin.

Democrats and labor experts say there are several factors fueling the worker shortage, many of which predate the pandemic.

Action 2 News has been following the story of Elizabeth Klotz of Sherwood who’s unemployed and still not getting any benefits at all.

“They’re running around talking about on TV how people don’t want to go back to work and all we want to do is collect these benefits that we’re getting. Well, people aren’t getting their benefits,” Klotz said.

She has been waiting since January but her claim is categorized by the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development as “pending an appeal.” In the meantime, Klotz said she’s been applying for jobs that don’t match her skills.

“I don’t know how to be a waitress. My heart goes out to them. I love them, we can’t go along without them but I don’t know the first thing of how to be a waitress,” she said.

Republicans have been targeting the federal bonus that are given to unemployed people because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Every single employer I’ve talked to is struggling getting people back to work. We just have to stop incentivizing people to stay home by paying them more to do so,” Rep. Jim Steineke, (R) Kaukauna, said.

In an interview with Action 2 News, Steineke acknowledged there was an employment problem in the state even before Covid-19 closed several businesses and forced people to stay inside.

“My overall point is government shouldn’t be making it worst than it was before,” Steineke said.

Some businesses are trying their own incentives to hire people, take for example Ashley Furniture Homestore.

“What we’re finding is that we’re having a difficult time bringing people back to work to be able to keep up with all the growth and all the demand we’re seeing,” Boston FAM Vice President of Marketing Jon Gadbois said. Boston FAM operates the Ashley Furniture and Furniture and ApplianceMart stores throughout the state.

The company announced on Wednesday it was offering a $1,000 gift card to customers who refer a hired job applicant.

“I don’t think there’s any one reason if I’m honest with you. I mean, I think it’s a variety of things that’s keeping people at home right now.”

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