The Joint Finance Committee met yesterday for the 2022-2023 fiscal budget. At this meeting, there were many complaints about job shortages and how “unemployment” was keeping the people collecting benefits from working. Rep. Zimmerman even described how he had to close his winery early on one Saturday because of a lack of workers. How terrible.
Apparently, no one on this committee understands that Wisconsin’s partial eligibility formula for unemployment benefits encourages people who are collecting benefits to accept part-time work and to work part-time.
Sigh. Under the partial wage formula, part-time weekend work is a financial boon for those collecting unemployment benefits. So, the real problem Rep. Zimmerman is having for finding weekend workers for his winery is that he is not offering a high enough wage to attract applicants. In other words, being unemployed does not mean that a person is not working. Indeed, in Wisconsin prior to the pandemic and outside of the winter months when many jobs shut down, most unemployed workers are actually still working.
As usual, Jake has the details on what the Joint Finance Committee did and did not do.
The LFB also mentions that the Evers Administration could use some of the $2.5 billion in discretionary money that the state will receive over the next 2 years, but much of those funds have already been planned on to be spent for other needs, such as $420 million in grants to small businesses.
So Evers was planning to use $15 million in state money in 2022 and 2023 to make up the deficit that exists in unemployment administration. And now the GOPs say “no,” which means that we will have to find somewhere else to make up the money, or eventually lay off a sizable amount of the staff that was added to take care of the delays in getting people their benefits, and in clearing up questions about their applications.
And did the WisGOPs remove any of the barriers and added paperwork that made getting benefits such a pain in the backside for so many state residents? OF COURSE NOT, and in fact, they’re bringing back more of this idiocy.
“Also Wednesday, the Republicans voted to reinstate a drug testing policy for some recipients of unemployment benefits.”
“In addition, they approved commissioning a study that would link how long Wisconsinites can receive benefits to the state’s unemployment rate. Under that system, the unemployed would qualify for benefits for a longer period when jobs are harder to find.”
Of course, the flip side is that they also can cut off people faster if the unemployment rate goes down. Even if the number of jobs remains significantly below where they were at the peak (which is the situation we are in today).
This connecting of unemployment benefits to the unemployment rate is a favorite mechanism for making unemployment that much more worse in times of an economic downturn. Legislators have been pushing this idea since 1 April 2013 (see #30). In Florida when the pandemic struck, Floridians were only eligible for 12 weeks of regular unemployment benefits (special legislation was passed to increase the number of weeks to 19). So, while the unemployment system in Wisconsin has been bad, the system in Florida has been even worse. This Florida “solution” — Wisconsin ended work search waivers during the winter off-season because of another Florida innovation — should be rejected out-of-hand.
As the Political Environment sums up the whole process:
[The Joint Finance Committee] just blocked funding for a UC system upgrade.
As I recently wrote, Wisconsin’s GOP leaders are running a pain and suffering operation out of the State Capitol that deliberately keeps low-income and disadvantaged citizens trapped in poverty, bad health and powerlessness.