Wisconsin residents who get caught intentionally deceiving the state’s unemployment insurance system twice would be banned from receiving benefits for seven years, under a bill approved in the state Assembly on Tuesday.
State Rep. Samantha Kerkman (R-Salem), the author of the proposal, said the “two strikes and you’re out” approach comes in response to a state audit which found 64,000 intentional fraud claims over a three year period. During debate on the Assembly floor, she cited multiple cases of individuals who were found to be collecting thousands of dollars in benefits, while lying about their current employment status. “I’m doing this because I want to make a deterrent for the bad actors out there who have been able to get away with frauding out the system,” she said.
Democrats argued the bill could end up banning people from receiving benefits who have made legitimate mistakes, as a result of an often complicated and complex process of verifying their employment status. Rep. Chris Taylor (R-Madison) noted that even federal officials have pointed out the confusing wording of questions the state asks, and asked “why aren’t we looking at why we can’t fix this system, and why is DWD refusing to correct these ambiguous confusing questions that they’ve been asking?”
Kerkman stressed the bill is about dealing with intentional fraud though, and that those who make honest mistakes will not be penalized with a ban from receiving benefits.