Posted at 11 a.m. on May 18, 2021
The Brillion News
MADISON – Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) was joined by more than a dozen other business associations in urging Governor Tony Evers to take immediate action on the state’s workforce shortage.
The business community asks that Evers end federal pandemic-related unemployment benefit programs that are contributing to Wisconsin’s workforce shortage.
The letter sent to the governor's office on Monday, May 17, calls on the Evers administration "to return unemplyment benefits in Wisconsin to what they were pre-pandemic by ending the state's participation in the enhanced federal unemployment benefits."
The request comes after WMC, 50 local chambers of commerce and some members of Wisconsin’s congressional delegation expressed concern that the extra $300 per week benefit was keeping people from returning to work.
Signatories of the letter represent thousands of businesses in manufacturing, construction, retail, hospitality and tourism, among others.
The growing urgency from every corner of the business community underscores the need for lawmakers to take action. .
In part, the letter reads: “If you drive through any downtown or through just about any business park in our state, you will see ubiquitous ‘help wanted’ signs in storefronts. The inability of employers to find workers is at a crisis level in Wisconsin, threatening the viability of thousands of businesses and the income they provide for workers and their families. If immediate action is not taken, there is a great likelihood that long-term and irreversible damage will be done to Wisconsin’s economy, harming employers and families alike."
Referencing the enhanced federal benefits, the different trade groups said that instead of “bouncing back” from the pandemic, the economy will be “held back” by an acute labor shortage made even worse by government interference in the marketplace.
Evers has used the slogan "Badger Bounce Back" for his vision of the state's recovery from pandemic restrictions imposed by government.
LEGISLATURE MAY ACT
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Senator Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, on May 18 announced Workforce Recovery legislation encouraging unemployed individuals to return-to-work amid a massive, statewide worker shortage.
The legislation ends Wisconsin’s participation in federal unemployment compensation enhancement programs that provide a disincentive for returning to work.
“The employers in my Senate District are desperate for workers,” Marklein said. “They have significantly raised wages, are offering sign-on bonuses and are begging people to work for them. But they cannot compete with the generous federal unemployment benefits that nearly double UI checks. We need to return to regular unemployment compensation programs and encourage able-bodied Wisconsinites to get back to work.”
“The pandemic is now under control and we need to get people back into the workforce so Wisconsin's economy can continue its recovery,” Vos said.
The bill ends Wisconsin’s participation in the following federal programs:
a. Pandemic unemployment assistance (PUA) program
b. Pandemic Emergency Unemployment compensation (PEUC) program
c. Federal pandemic unemployment compensation (FPUC) program
d. Mixed earner unemployment compensation (MEUC) program.
It also prohibits the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) from waiving the work search requirements for any reason that is related to COVID.
Twenty-one other states have opted out of the federal unemployment insurance benefit enhancers as of May 18.
Once enacted, the Wisconsin unemployment compensation program will return to pre-pandemic operations and provide an ongoing safety net for those who need it.