Gov. Tony Evers vetoed a bill on Tuesday that would have ended Wisconsin’s participation in federal pandemic relief programs that increase the amount of government assistance available for unemployed people. The supplemental assistance is set to expire on Sept. 6, but at least 25 states started phasing it out earlier this month.
The bill would have reduced the maximum weekly unemployment benefit in Wisconsin from $670 per week to $370 week. It also would have prevented the state Department of Workforce Development from waiving unemployment work search requirements for any reason related to COVID-19. It passed on party-line votes in both chambers of the Legislature.
“Eliminating this lifeline for many Wisconsinites will cause continued economic hardship for those impacted the most by the pandemic and create additional hurdles to return to family-sustaining jobs,” Evers wrote in his veto message. “As a result, the entire state economy likely would be negatively affected.”
“The Legislature needs to confront issues surrounding child care, wages, and workplace COVID-19 safety for those returning to the workforce,” Evers wrote. “Eliminating the supplemental federal benefits while simultaneously failing to address systemic problems faced by individuals remaining in and returning to the workforce is irresponsible.”
Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, disputed Evers’ assertion that there is no link between the extra money and the state’s workforce shortage.
“Every single employer I have talked to is challenged to find workers. Hardworking employees, who have been stretched very thin, tell me that they are getting tired,” Marklein said. “From restaurants to manufacturers to city governments to state parks. Every single employer is competing with the government’s unnecessary enhanced unemployment checks.”
Unemployment insurance should be a “safety net,” not a “brick wall for employers,” Marklein argued. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, argued the veto only serves to add “one more hurdle” for businesses trying to recover from the pandemic.