Lawmakers seek to end 'bonus unemployment'

Posted at 5:30 p.m. on June 9, 2021

The Brillion News

MADISON - The state Assembly on Wednesday, June 9, voted to end the state's participation in a program that Republican say had turned the Unemployment Insurance program into just another form of welfare for people who don't want to work.

Representative Paul Tittl, R-Manitowoc, voted for legislation that will encourage unemployed individuals to return to work as businesses and employees navigate a worker shortage.

In addition, the bill ends Wisconsin’s participation in federal unemployment compensation enhancement programs, which Republicans feel discourages people from returning to work. “Wisconsin’s economy is open, demand for products and services is high, and many businesses can’t find enough workers to meet that demand,” Tittl said. “The enhanced benefits are no longer necessary as we have a workforce shortage, and businesses have implemented many safety precautions to get Wisconsinites back to work in a safe environment.”

The bill ends Wisconsin’s participation in the following federal programs: 

  • Pandemic unemployment assistance (PUA) program

  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment compensation (PEUC) program 

  • Federal pandemic unemployment compensation (FPUC) program 

  • Mixed earner unemployment compensation (MEUC) program

The federal supplement provides an additional $300 per week on top of state benefits. Currently, 25 other states have opted out of the federal benefits, set to expire on September 6, 2021.

The Wisconsin bill also ensures that individuals who file for Unemployment Insurance are actively searching for a job to be eligible to collect benefits. The governor waived that requirement last year through an emergency rule.

“Many employers in my district have increased wages and may even be offering sign-on bonuses,” Tittl said. “They shouldn’t be competing with the government to attract enough workers to stay open.”

According to an SR Poll Results report, 71 percent of voters favor ending the enhanced federal unemployment payments. This includes 67 percent of independents and 59 percent of Democrats.

If the legislation is signed by Governor Evers, advocates of the bill say the Wisconsin unemployment compensation program will return to pre-pandemic operations and provide an ongoing safety net for those who truly need it, without discouraging people from working.