Wisconsin Legislature Votes To End Federal Supplemental Unemployment Benefits

Republicans in the state Legislature have voted to discontinue federal unemployment insurance benefits that were added during the coronavirus pandemic.

The weekly $300 benefits, down from $600 earlier in the pandemic, were set to expire in September. Unless Wednesday’s move is vetoed by Gov. Tony Evers, they’ll end much sooner for Wisconsinites. His administration did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the vote.

The bill passed the Senate without debate. The vote was on party lines, with 20 Republicans in favor and 12 Democrats opposed.

In contrast, there were more than two hours of discussion in the Assembly, where Republicans focused on the challenges facing Wisconsin businesses. More businesses than not have “Help Wanted” signs in the window, Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, noted. Ending supplemental unemployment benefits won’t be a silver bullet to address the lack of workers, but unemployment is meant to serve as a short-term bridge, he said.

“Now, if we were in the middle of a recession or a pandemic where jobs are difficult to come by, I could understand, perhaps, those on the other side who advocate for keeping the bonus unemployment longer,” he said. “But we are now in the most critical season for many businesses in Wisconsin, and that’s the summer.”

Ultimately, the bill passed the Assembly with a vote of 60-37. More than two dozen states have already discontinued the supplemental benefits, which Congress passed three times during the pandemic.

The legislation passed Wednesday ends four types of federal unemployment aid: Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation and Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation.