Governor Evers, GOP Leaders, Signal Movement Toward State COVID-19 Legislation

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and Republican legislative leaders signaled Wednesday that they were making progress toward a state bill to address the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said they support a temporary repeal of Wisconsin’s one-week waiting period for unemployment benefits, an effort pushed for the past two years by Evers.

The governor also unveiled a new round of proposals he wants the Legislature to consider as part of a legislative session to address the new coronavirus, including a plan that would guarantee the payment of all unemployment benefits and another that would spend $150 million on grants to help small businesses weather the economic storm.

While Evers and Republicans remained far apart on specifics, Vos and Fitzgerald’s comments were noteworthy given their previous opposition to repealing the one-week waiting period, a law signed by former Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

“There is broad support for the temporary suspension of the one-week waiting period for unemployment,” Vos said. “We want to make sure that people have access to those benefits.”

Fitzgerald said the change would likely be retroactive for people who had already applied for unemployment when the federal government increased benefits.

“Absolutely, I would support that,” Fitzgerald said.

Vos said discussions were ongoing about the cutoff date for the retroactive funding.