State Lawmakers at Odds Over Unemployment Reform

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agree something needs to be done about the state’s unemployment system, but Democrats and Republicans don’t see eye to eye on the best solution.

State Rep. Shelia Stubbs (D-Madison) is one of the Democrats who introduced legislation Thursday aimed at removing some of the barriers to unemployment benefits.

Democrats, including Rep. Stubbs, introduced the following legislation:

  • LRB 6244 – Wisconsin is one of only two states that prevent people with disabilities who are able to work from receiving unemployment benefits. This bill would allow social security disability (SSDI) recipients to receive concurrent unemployment insurance benefits.
  • LRB 6246 – Under current law, individuals cannot receive extended UI benefits when participating in extended occupational training. This bill would reinstate the ability of those participating in extended occupational training to receive extended UI benefits.
  • LRB 6249 – Currently, claimants are ineligible for UI during weeks where they hit a wage threshold. This bill would temporarily suspend the $500 wage threshold for recipients of unemployment insurance benefits.
  • LRB 6254 – The current definition of “suitable work” creates challenges for claimants. This bill reinstates DWD’s authority to determine by administrative rule what constitutes suitable work a claimant must accept if offered, and what labor market conditions to review based on the number of weeks that the claimant has received benefits.
  • LRB 6256 – Several laws enacted over the last decade have restricted DWD’s ability to increase access to unemployment insurance when appropriate. This bill expands DWD’s authority to promulgate rules that provide waivers for work search and job registration requirements.
  • LRB 6257 – Currently, payments on valid unemployment insurance claims are delayed for one week. This bill would permanently eliminate the requirement that claimants wait one week before receiving benefits.
  • LRB 6265 – Currently, claimants are required for perform four work searches per week. This bill lowers the required work searches from four to two per week and repeals the provision allowing DWD to require by rule additional work searches.
  • LRB 6362 – The concept of substantial fault has caused confusion for both employers and employees and when employees are entitled to benefits when they are discharged by their employers. This bill would eliminate the concept of substantial fault being a disqualifying factor.

Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) was quick to dismiss the ideas—blaming the governor for how he’s handled the crisis.

Republicans want to use federal money to cover the costs of unemployment benefits for people waiting to find out if they qualify, which Gov. Tony Evers called a “political stunt.”