Starting May 24, 2017, the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development will retire part of a 1990’s-era automated telephone system to file Unemployment Insurance (UI) claims, shifting virtually all filing of initial UI claims online using a computer, tablet or smart phone. Claimants can call UI help center staff for guidance in using the online process or, if they are unable to use online services, staff will file the claim over the phone.
Weekly claims will still be accepted through the automated phone system until the weekly phone system is retired in a future phase. In 2017, approximately 81 percent of all initial and weekly claims already are filed online.
In addition to providing additional training to UI help center staff, DWD has cross-trained DWD staff who work in the state’s Job Centers and is communicating the upcoming changes to Wisconsin’s network of over 450 public library locations in communities across Wisconsin to help those without a personal computer or mobile device file their claims.
DWD began notifying claimants in late 2016 of plans to retire the 1990’s-era automated phone system with messages on the phone system, online and through direct mailings. In 2016, over 90 percent of all UI claimants had an active UI online account.
Secretary Allen noted the online claim filing services offer several advantages over the automated telephone system, such as:
- The ability to save work and conveniently finish a claim at a later time.
- Options to view information before submitting the claim to verify the accuracy of a claimant’s answers.
- Work search and wage entry screens to entered required data online, preventing potential payment delays associated with sending the information by fax or mail.
- Tips and answers to frequent questions during the filing process and how to videos to help claimants navigate the online system.
Additionally, customers can quickly access account information, such as:
- Individual claim information, payment status and remaining benefit balance.
- Printer-friendly documentation of payments received for housing or energy assistance.
- 1099-G tax forms. to view and print
- Personal information including the ability to update an address, tax withholding, payment method, and bank information.
To file an unemployment claim or seek answers to claims questions online, UI customers can log on to my.unemployment.wisconsin.gov and create a username and password.
Governor Scott Walker joined Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett in traveling throughout the state to highlight Wisconsin’s tourism economy, which reached $20 billion in 2016. This marks a $700 million boost from $19.3 billion in 2015. The announcement comes as Governor Walker and Secretary Klett kick-off this year’s National Travel and Tourism Week, which runs May 7- May 13. Throughout the day, they will visit top tourist destinations in Madison, La Crosse, Appleton, and Minocqua.
“The travel and hospitality industry continues to be crucial to our state and is consistently a top performing sector of our economy,” Governor Walker said. “Investing in tourism promotion and marketing at the national, state, and local level is not only an effective way to attract visitors and grow the economy, it also enhances the image of Wisconsin as a great place to live and do business.”
Lower gas prices, consumer confidence, and spending increases in the lodging sector were all key factors in the 3.5 percent growth seen in 2016. The tourism industry continues to show stable, long-term growth according to recently-released economic impact figures.
“For six years in a row, Wisconsin’s tourism industry has had a positive impact on the economy and job growth,” said Secretary Klett. “The research shows that the increased investment in marketing our brand of fun continues to positively influence the way people think about Wisconsin as a great place to vacation, work, and live.”
- The total six-year growth of tourism activity in the state is $5.2 billion, a 35 percent increase according to Tourism Economics, the research firm for the Department of Tourism.
- Visitor volume for the same period is up 15.2 million from 92.5 million to 107.7 million in 2016.
- Additionally, international travel to Wisconsin was up $100 million.
- Last year’s decline in gas prices resulted in lower transportation costs for visitors and increased spending on lodging, restaurants, and recreation.
- Lodging, which makes up over 27 percent of visitor spending, showed the strongest growth at 5.8 percent.
- Visitors spent over $3 billion on food and beverage, the second largest sector of the tourism economy.
- Traveler spending on recreation had a growth of 4.2 percent.
- Tourism directly and indirectly supported 193,500 jobs in Wisconsin’s labor market in 2016.
- The growth of tourism over the last six years has helped add 21,500 jobs, a 12.4 percent increase.
- Visitors generated $1.5 billion in state and local revenue, saving Wisconsin taxpayers $650 per household.
House Republicans on Thursday narrowly approved their sweeping health care bill aimed at fulfilling a campaign promise to upend ObamaCare, after resuscitating legislation that had flatlined on the floor not six weeks earlier.
The revised American Health Care Act passed on a 217-213 vote.
“We’re going to get this finished,” President Trump declared in a celebratory Rose Garden event, surrounded by Republican congressional allies shortly after the vote. He vowed premiums and deductibles will be “coming down” and the Affordable Care Act is “essentially dead.”
The bill would eliminate tax penalties in Obama’s law which clamped down on people who don’t buy coverage and it erases tax increases in the Affordable Care Act on higher-earning people and the health industry. It cuts the Medicaid program for low-income people and lets states impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients. It transforms Obama’s subsidies for millions buying insurance — largely based on people’s incomes and premium costs — into tax credits that rise with consumers’ ages.
The measure would retain Obama’s requirement that family policies cover grown children until age 26.
But states could get federal waivers freeing insurers from other Obama coverage requirements. With waivers, insurers could charge people with pre-existing illnesses far higher rates than healthy customers, boost prices for older consumers to whatever they wish and ignore the mandate that they cover specified services like pregnancy care.
A newly introduced state bill would require local governments to poll voters before passing a so-called wheel tax, a measure more cities have explored in recent years to meet transportation costs.
A bill authored by Rep. Michael Schraa, R-Oshkosh, requires municipalities to put plans for a wheel tax up for a binding voter referendum instead of simply passing such measures through city council or county boards. The tax is a charge tacked on to the $75 yearly car registration. Schraa is looking for sponsors for the measure and hopes the Legislature will consider the bill before budget deliberations, he said.
“We’re not saying that you can’t have a wheel tax,” Schraa said. “To me, if I was on a city council, I’d want as much public input as possible.”
More communities have turned to a wheel tax to fund transportation projects in recent years to offset shrinking state funding. USA TODAY NETWork-Wisconsin reported that 13 of the 16 cities and counties in the state that levy a wheel tax passed them in the last two years. Nearly all of the communities that employ wheel taxes passed the rule without a referendum.
Milwaukee County voters in April rejected a wheel tax totaling $60. Voters in Wausau scrubbed a $20 wheel tax in a referendum by a 14-percentage-point margin in November.
Representative Joan Ballweg (R-Markesan) and Senators Nass (R-Whitewater) and Darling (R-River Hills) introduced legislation to provide additional legislative oversight on the administrative rulemaking process and reform the procedures for repealing outdated and burdensome rules.
This proposal is an evolution of the Assembly’s Red Tape Review project and initiatives by the Governor to clean up outdated and burdensome rules. The proposed bill allows better legislative checks on state agencies and the administrative rulemaking process, and creates a process to continually review agency rules.
“Speaker Vos tasked me with the Red Tape Review project to see that the nearly 1800 chapters of administrative code are reviewed by the Assembly Standing Committees. This proposal will make the review of administrative code an ongoing process and in some cases, vastly simplify the rules process,” said Ballweg.
Five procedures are created under this bill: (1) an expedited procedure for agencies to repeal unauthorized rules; (2) a process for agencies to regularly review rules; (3) a process for agencies to regularly review new enactments to determine how they affect current rules; (4) a process for the Legislative Reference Bureau to biennially report to the legislature on rules in need of revision; (5) a process for the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules to request a retrospective economic impact analysis on existing rules.
Under current law, to repeal an administrative rule the agency must go through the promulgation process which can take a year or more and is resource and time intensive. There is also nothing that requires agencies to continually review their rules or new enactments, so the process will vary from agency to agency or not happen at all.
“Right now, it’s difficult for small business owners to know which rules apply to them and which are outdated,” Darling said, “This bill eliminates outdated rules from the books and gives our rules a thorough check-up to make sure they are accurate, fair, and clear.”
Just days before they might have had to close, most of the Wisconsin dairy farms caught up in a trade dispute with Canada have found buyers for their milk, enabling them to stay in business. At risk had been some 58 farms ranging in size from 80 to 3,000 cows, including many in Dodge and Jefferson counties and others near Fond du Lac and Sheboygan.
Grassland Dairy Products of Greenwood said it would stop buying from the farms effective this Monday because it lost millions of dollars when Canada changed its milk-buying practices to favor Canadian farmers at the expense of U.S. milk producers.
On Thursday, though, dairy farmers close to the situation said nearly all of the farms that lost their contracts with Grassland now appear likely to have new milk buyers by Monday, even if the agreements are short term.
Some of the new contracts have come from Mullins Cheese of Mosinee, Rolling Hills and the cooperative Dairy Farmers of America. State officials would not confirm the positive turn of events Thursday, although they said earlier that the situation was changing “hour by hour” and they were hopeful it would be resolved by the end of the week.
The displaced milk is estimated at 1 million pounds, or about 116,000 gallons, a day. That’s milk that farmers otherwise would have had to dump, because cows have to be milked two or three times a day whether or not there’s a buyer for the product.
Still, a few of the displaced farms probably won’t find buyers before Monday. The Farm Center at the state Agriculture Department has a “situation room” where staff members are talking with dairy plant owners, trying to connect them with the remaining farms.
Canada has said it’s not to blame for the crisis; it faults American farmers for producing too much milk in a global marketplace flooded with it. But U.S. authorities, including Trump, have said the Canadian dairy system is choking off sales of Wisconsin and New York milk in Canada. “We need to get at the root of the problem,” said Chris Galen, spokesman for the National Milk Producers Federation in Washington, D.C. “There are long-term ramifications that aren’t as visible as a few dozen farms all of a sudden losing their markets. The longer-term impact will affect a much larger number of America’s dairy farmers from coast to coast.”
Sales of existing homes in Wisconsin posted their best first quarter in at least a dozen years, the Wisconsin Realtors Association said Monday. At the same time, prices continued to increase in what real estate professionals say is a thin inventory of homes on the market, especially in the state’s more-urban metro areas.
A strong March helped boost the first-quarter sales total to 13,376, up 3.2% from 12,958 in the first three months of 2016. In March, sales increased 7.2%, to 5,906 from 5,509 in March last year. The median sale price of homes sold in Wisconsin through March this year was $159,575, or 6.4% higher than $150,000 in last year’s first quarter.
The Wisconsin Realtors Association said first-quarter existing home sales were the strongest for that three-month period in the state since the association recalibrated its system of tracking home sales in 2005.
“What is amazing about these record sales is that they are occurring against a backdrop of very tight statewide inventories,” Erik Sjowall, chairman of the Wisconsin Realtors Association, said in a statement.
Economist David Clark, a Marquette University professor who analyzes the monthly sales and price data for the state Realtors, said buyers seemed to have grasped the reality they must have their financial qualifications in order and should act quickly on a property they want. “That behavioral change may be allowing us to see growth even though our inventory levels are getting really tight,” said Clark, who is executive associate dean at Marquette’s business school.
All regions of the state had monthly growth in sales in March.
Economic conditions point toward more consumers likely getting into the homebuying market. The statewide labor market continues to improve, with the March seasonally adjusted unemployment rate at 3.4%, the Realtors said. The unemployment rate has gone down even though the state labor force has grown over the last 12 months, which means job growth is more than keeping pace with the number of new job seekers.