Wisconsin Assembly Fails Again to Block Additional Federal Unemployment Aid

The Wisconsin Assembly voted again Tuesday on a bill that would eliminate extra federal money for unemployment benefit recipients in Wisconsin, but Republican support for the measure wasn’t enough to override a veto from Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.

The GOP attempt to override Evers’ veto fell short of the two-thirds vote threshold necessary to do so. It passed on a vote of 59-37, with Republicans voting in favor and Democrats against.

The bill, which was first approved by the GOP-controlled Legislature last month, would have barred Wisconsin from participating in the federal program that provides $300 a week in additional unemployment aid to benefit recipients. More than two dozen states have passed similar measures already this year. The bill would have also blocked the state Department of Workforce Development from waiving work search requirements for unemployment benefits because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

During debate, Republicans argued the extra money makes it too easy to stay unemployed, and pointed to businesses across the state that are struggling to hire workers.

“Government is doing something right now that works against these businesses, works against our economy,” said Rep. Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam.

According to the state Department of Workforce Development, the maximum state weekly unemployment payment is $370 a week, depending on the worker’s prior income. Combined with the $300 in additional federal benefits, that would amount to $16.75 an hour for a 40-hour work week.

Democrats pushed back on Republicans’ arguments, arguing that eliminating the extra federal money wouldn’t be enough to solve Wisconsin’s worker shortage. They said there are other barriers to going back to work, such as child care shortages that have been exacerbated by the pandemic, continued concerns about contracting COVID-19 and inadequate public transportation. Some workers have also struggled to find jobs that align with their skills and abilities.

The federal benefits are scheduled to end in September, regardless of individual states’ actions.