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Wisconsin Senate Committee Discusses Bill To End $300 Federal Unemployment Supplement

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Ann Althouse
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The bill would get rid of the additional federal unemployment benefit for Wisconsin residents, but would not affect the state’s unemployment compensation program.

On Tuesday, the state Senate Committee on Labor and Regulatory Reform met to discuss a bill that would bring an end to the $300 federal unemployment supplement for Wisconsin residents.

Republican Sen. Howard Marklein of Spring Green was the first to speak at the hearing. He said local businesses in his district, and across the state, are struggling to keep their doors open due to a shortage of workers. Marklein hopes getting rid of the federal unemployment benefit program will encourage more people to reenter the workforce and said he’s already heard support from workers across the state who say they’re tired of being overworked while others receive the federal supplement.

“These are people that are getting up everyday, going to work and working hard to support their families,” he said. “I’ve heard stories of their neighbor getting up and one neighbor gets up to pack his lunch pail to go to work and the next door neighbor is packing the tackle box to go fishing all day.”

While the bill would get rid of the additional federal unemployment benefit for Wisconsin residents, Marklein said it would not affect the state’s unemployment compensation program. Still, some Democratic senators question whether the shortage of workers is due to the federal supplement.

Democratic Sen. LaTonya Johnson of Milwaukee is one of them. She wanted to know if the senators who wrote the bill looked at the unemployment data before determining whether the difficulties finding workers is because of the federal supplement. In more rural districts like the one Marklein represents, Johnson also requested they look at other factors that may be contributing to a lack of available employees.

“I would feel like it would be wrong of us to completely say that it’s the result of the extra $300 payment when some of these areas have population issues anyway [and] a shortage of workers even before the pandemic, because of population size and the proximity to the jobs,” she said. “I would like to see the actual numbers or the actual proof that it’s because of this extra $300 supplemental income that’s causing the worker shortage.”

In more urban districts, like her own, Johnson said there are a lot of factors that can prevent someone from being able to go back to work. For example, the lack of childcare.

“Regardless of how much money the governor has and puts towards childcare, that’s not going to create new day care centers or enough to address some of these issues.” she said.

While business owners are pushing to get people back to work, many of the ones at the hearing on Tuesday acknowledge that simply ending the federal subsidy isn’t enough.

Scott Mayer, chairman and CEO of QPS Employment Group said, “What I want to see you do instead of just knocking out the unemployment is let’s find a way to encourage people to get comfortable and get back in the workforce, make a living, provide for their family and feel like they’re a part of the community and contributing to society. That’s what we need to do, and it’s a very scary situation because we have companies that are really, really struggling.”

The legislation is expected to be scheduled for debate next month.

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