MacIver News Service
Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin unveiled a package of bills recently they say will help solve Wisconsin’s labor crisis.
The “Stronger Workforce Initiative” includes 7 bills to help businesses find workers and prevent people from taking advantage of unemployment benefits. Those bills would:
- Tie the duration of unemployment benefits to the unemployment rate
- Deny unemployment benefits to recipients who don’t show up to scheduled job interviews
- Require able-bodied FoodShare recipients to look for work
- Changes the mission of the Unemployment Insurance Program to “Reemployment Assistance.”
- Denies Medical Assistance to recipients who refuse work
- Improve operating procedures throughout the Unemployment Insurance Program to address the backlog processing problems from 2020
- Implement regular eligibility checks for government assistance programs
“These bills today will bring common sense and accountability to these programs to make sure they’re focused on helping people find work, protecting the funds that are there for those that need them, when they need them,” Rep. Warren Petryk (R – Town of Washington) said.
“The more people who are on these programs who don’t truly need them, the more these programs are stressed and the less funding that is available to help the truly needy,” Rep. Tyler August (R-Lake Geneva) said.
Right now, the unemployment rate in Wisconsin is currently around 3%. In April 2020, it peaked at 14.8%.
The labor force participation rate is 66.4%. It bottomed out at 65.5% a year ago. It peaked in the mid-1990s at 74.5% and has been trending downward ever since. The labor force participation rate tracks the number of individuals who have dropped out of the workforce. “When a person isn’t looking for a job, for whatever reason, they do not get labeled as unemployed.”
If we have a higher labor force participation rate, we have a stronger economy with more people actually working. With a labor participation rate of 66.4%, that means 33.6% of working-age Wisconsinites who could be working are not working or looking for work. The vast majority of that 33% non-working group are surviving on some sort of government assistance.
“One of the big concerns I hear from small businesses and constituents in my district is that they can’t find workers to fill positions and people are gaming the unemployment system,” said Rep. Tyler Vorpagel (R-Plymouth). “Unemployment benefits are meant to help people who’ve fallen on hard times get back on their feet as they find a new job.”
“With the unemployment rate that we currently have and the economy that we’re in, people don’t need half of a year to be finding a job,” said Rep. Alex Dallman (R-Green Lake).
Earlier this year, Rep. Mark Born joined the MacIver Newsmakers Podcast to discuss the labor crisis and policy changes enacted by the Biden and Evers administrations that lower our labor participation rate.
The bills are circulating for co-sponsorship. Leadership plans to vote on the package on the Assembly and Senate floors by the end of next month.