Replacing unemployment with reemployment

Rep. Petryk, Rep. Penterman, and Sen. Roth have proposed a major revamp of unemployment support that would re-make the Department of Workforce Development into a government-sponsored job coach that would, presumably, guide claimants to new jobs.

In place of a free labor market, where claimants get to make their own decisions about which jobs to apply to and how to go about searching for work, these politicians want to mandate government involvement and even control of claimants’ job search efforts. Here is what they propose.

  • The Department must provide claimants with four potential job opportunities, one or more of which could be a temporary help company. Claimants who do not apply for work with that temp company are likely to lose their eligibility for unemployment benefits.
  • RESEA training will be mandatory for all claimants. This requirement is already understood as required by the Department, but this proposal removes any discretion and makes attending a job search training seminar mandatory for all claimants who seem likely to exhaust their eligibility.
  • That drug testing for claimants must be implemented by the Department. As previously noted, this drug testing would require the Department to provide drug treatment counseling as well for those who test positive or fail to appear for a drug test.
  • As of a claimant’s second weekly certification, claimants must have a resume on the Job Center of Wisconsin website. This requirement already exists for every claimant’s benefit year, however, per the job registration requirement. See Laura Hoffman, UI Hearing No.17002961MW (16 Nov. 2017) (claimant must complete job registration requirement within 14 days of initiating a claim for unemployment benefits). So, this proposal is nothing more than shortening the requirement to seven days.
  • Starting with the third week claimed, two of a claimant’s four job searches must be job applications or job interviews.
  • When there are three weeks of unemployment benefits left in a claimant’s benefit year, the claimant must attend a reemployment counseling session with a Department staffer.
  • The Department must compile reports regarding claimants’ job experience for the three years after the claimant first receives unemployment benefits. This part of the proposal is likely to run afoul of federal claimant confidentiality requirements. To the extent that this request reflects general job experience and claimant experience broken down by county or region, there is nothing preventing such a general report from being prepared by the Department right now.

As the sponsors of this proposal explain in their introductory memo about the changes they propose:

* Requiring the Department of Workforce Development to engage in universal workforce assessments and reemployment services by providing individuals early access to customized workforce services to get them access to employment services at the start of the UI claim.

o This means claimants will receive an online career readiness assessment when starting their claim to identify their career skills and talents.

o DWD will then use this information to develop a personalized employment plan for the individual.

o Require the claimant to participate in services to help complete their employment plan, like resume writing workshops, soft-skills training, and employment workshops.

Perhaps the most odious change being proposed is to add the following language in a proposed Wis. Stat. § 108.01(2m) as a fundamental goal of unemployment benefits:

The Social Security Act requires that, in order for an individual to be eligible for reemployment assistance benefits, the individual must be able to work, available to work, and actively seeking work. The reemployment assistance program in Wisconsin should enact and focus on policies that complement individuals’ efforts to find employment.

There has been a great deal of litigation in other states who ended their PUC and PUA and PEUC benefits prematurely under the pretense that these programs kept the unemployed from finding jobs. Litigation has been lost in some of those states that had a reemployment provision similar to the one being proposed here. Courts found that reemployment, rather than financial support after a job loss, meant that states had to end these programs prematurely. So, this proposal in essence is to make it easier for a state to end future federal emergency benefits under the guise of reemployment.

Note: To reinforce the importance of reemployment over unemployment, the majority of the proposed bill is concerned with changing the name of unemployment to reemployment.

The only helpful change in this proposal is to expand the earnings disregard to $30 or 40% of a claimant’s weekly benefit rate, whichever is greater, for calculating a claimant’s partial benefit. For example, a claimant with a weekly benefit rate of $250 would have an earnings disregard $100 rather than the current $30. So, weekly earnings of $90 would mean the claimant would keep all $250 in unemployment benefits that week, and weekly earnings of $400 would mean the claimant would still receive $49 in unemployment benefits that week. Unfortunately, this proposal keeps the $500 wage cap in place, so a claimant still loses all eligibility when earnings wages of $500 or more.

Note: The proposal also includes bonuses to employers for hiring long term unemployed workers. Such efforts are generally considered ineffectual or even foolish.

In short, this proposal seeks to make a government agency into an entity that micro-manages claimants’ job search efforts. Free-market Republicans are certainly not behind this proposal. Rather than creating an environment by which claimants could educate themselves and improve their job skills, this proposal is mainly concerned with forcing job searches down the throats of claimants so as to create a pool of labor for temp companies to draw on. Say what you want about the big government plans of Ted Kennedy, but he never sought to turn government into a mechanism for attacking working people when they are down and jobless.

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