Extended benefits are now available for the long-term unemployed in Wisconsin. The state Senate passed a bill Monday providing an extra 13 weeks of unemployment insurance. The bill’s author, state Senator Van Wanggaard, said it’s important for unemployed workers to make sure their eligibility is updated. “Those individuals who stopped reporting need to go and get up to date with where they had been with their reporting process.”
The Senate concurred with a bill passed by the Assembly last month which stripped out a Senate amendment dropping a one week wait to receive unemployment benefits. Because of that, no Democrats voted in favor of the measure which passed on a partisan 19-14 vote. “This would be funny, if it wasn’t going to cause so much pain,” said Democratic Senator Dave Hansen of Green Bay. The Senate had amended legislation allowing the state to receive an additional $88 million in federal money for the long-term unemployed, eliminating the one week wait that was included in the state budget. The amendment drew GOP support on a voice vote. “And when we finished we all said kumbaya,” said Coggs. “Now we’re here two weeks later, and want to take a week’s worth of unemployment benefits away from our workers. Where’s the ‘kumbayacity’ when you really need it?”
While Senate Democrats hammered the Republicans for a flip-flop on the issue of the one week waiting period to collect unemployment benefits, Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald told reporters that he allowed the amendment to come to the floor last month with the thinking that the Assembly and Governor Scott Walker would go along. “We could have, at that point broke, went to caucus, had a debate for three hours about the seven-day waiting period, but I don’t think it was worth it. Maybe if we would have made a quicker decision on the floor to just reject that, it would have aligned better with the Assembly and the governor. But that’s just not the way it happened on the floor.”
Fitzgerald said it was necessary to come to the floor today because the Assembly would not return until September and the governor’s office would not support the elimination of the one week waiting period which is projected to save the state’s unemployment compensation fund some $51 million. He said the important thing was to approve the benefits extension.