Skip to Content

Allowing UI waiting period to resume costing state $1.3M per week

Remaining Ad Time Ad - 00:00

MADISON (WKOW) -- The state's failure to pass a new COVID-19 response package is now costing Wisconsin more than $1 million every week in federal unemployment relief money.

Gov. Tony Evers vetoed a package approved by the GOP-led Assembly and Senate last Thursday. Evers said he objected to controversial items added by the Assembly after the governor's office and Senate Republican leaders agreed on a compromise deal earlier last month.

In order to receive the federal relief, states cannot have a waiting period for people filing a claim for unemployment benefits.

Wisconsin law requires people filing for unemployment to wait one week before they're eligible to start receiving benefits. Legislative Republicans enacted the measure during the Walker administration.

Lawmakers suspended the waiting period last spring but their delay in doing so cost Wisconsin about $25 million in federal CARES Act money.

According to a Legislative Fiscal Bureau memo, the state waited three weeks too long last March. It cost the state more than $8 million per week.

The suspension of the waiting period expired on February 7. With that, Wisconsin was once again no longer eligible for the federal relief.

This time, the amount of federal UI money is about $1.3 million per week because the Continued Assistance for Unemployed Workers Act of 2020 extends the waiting period reimbursement provision at a 50% match instead of the 100% level it was at last spring.

The amount is also smaller because there are considerably fewer unemployment claims now than there were last spring.

The state could become eligible for the federal funding if it would once again suspend the one-week waiting period -- something lawmakers could do as a standalone bill.

The offices of Republican legislative leaders, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg), did respond to questions Tuesday.

Sen. Mary Felzkowski (R-Irma) said she supported taking specific provisions within the failed relief package and voting on them as separate bills.

"I'm not part of the talks [with Evers] because I'm not in leadership," Felzkowski said. "I'm not there, but I know Speaker Vos and Majority Leader Lemahieu are having conversations so there's a lot of things in those bills I support so I would like to see a lot of that come back."

Evers said on a media call Tuesday members of his staff have had talks with GOP leaders but he has not directly been in those conversations.

"The best type of legislation is legislation that all parties agree to and we know what that is," Evers said. "So I'm hopeful the legislature will take another crack at this in the near future."

The Assembly-added items that Evers said prompted him to veto the relief bill included measures banning employers from requiring workers to get vaccinated, prohibiting local health officials from closing places of worship during the pandemic, and giving the legislature more say over how future federal relief money is spent.

Another amendment added last week would have allowed Evers to only issue COVID-19 emergency orders for the purpose of securing federal relief.

At the heart of that fight is Evers' previous emergency orders, which included statewide mask mandates; whether Evers has the authority to extend his original emergency order beyond its first 60 days is a question still before the state supreme court.

Lawmakers voted to end Evers' first emergency order last Thursday only for Evers to issue a new one about an hour later.

Author Profile Photo

A. J. Bayatpour

Reporter, WKOW 27

Skip to content