Wisconsin Republicans Want to End $300 Unemployment Bonus

Wisconsin Republicans want to end the $300-per-week federal unemployment supplement, which they said Tuesday hurts businesses that are struggling to fill vacancies as customers return amid a loosening of coronavirus restrictions.

The bill comes after the state chamber of commerce, more than a dozen trade groups, more than 50 local chambers of commerce and others called on Evers to return the state’s unemployment payments to pre-pandemic levels. Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson and Wisconsin’s five Republican members of Congress last week also asked Evers to rescind the $300 payment.

More than a dozen states with Republican governors have moved to eliminate the $300 payment. That payment is on top of Wisconsin’s weekly $370 unemployment benefit.

Ron Buholzer, one of the owners of Klondike Cheese Co. in Monroe, said he has 34 open positions now and has few applicants, despite raising starting salaries from $14 to $16 an hour.

“The help we have, they’re getting tired,” Buholzer said at a Capitol news conference. “They’re long days, long hours, when you’re short of people. … The only way we can fix that is more people.”

Under the bill, Wisconsin would no longer participate in four federal unemployment enhancement programs: Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation and Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation.

The bill also prohibits the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development from waiving work-search requirements for any reason that is related to COVID-19. Republicans moved forward with separate plans to reinstate the work requirement, with a legislative committee planning to vote Wednesday to suspend the state rule waiving the work search requirements. That waiver is set to expire in July.

If the rule is put back in place, unemployed people will have to perform four work-search activities weekly to obtain benefits.