Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Unemployment benefits continue, but that doesn't mean there aren't still barriers

In the American Rescue Plan Act, there were extensions for both the PUA and PEUC unemployment programs. This will allow for Wisconsinites to get up to 79 weeks of unemployment, carrying the time limit for these programs through to Labor Day Weekend, at which time you would hope that there would be enough people vaccinated by that time so that COVID is insignificant as an economic drag.

In addition, a $300 add-on for those benefits will continue for that time period (under the FPUC program), as will the newer Mixed-Earner program. However, many Wisconsinites are still waiting to get benefits under PUA and the Mixed-Earner program, according to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.
But one item that is changing with unemployment benefits in Wisconsin is that the waiting week is back. That's because the State Legislature has not passed anything that would have allowed the waiver was that was in effect last week to continue.
In an email Monday, Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) spokesperson Grace Kim said the waiting week is "again in effect for new initial applications filed for the week of March 14, 2021."

In Wisconsin and many states across the country, unemployment benefits are typically not payable for the first week a recipient is eligible for benefits. But that waiting week comes on top of the length of time it takes state unemployment agencies to process a person's claim, said Rebecca Dixon, executive director of the left-leaning National Employment Law Project.

Recipients in Wisconsin must undergo a one-week waiting period each time they start a new year of benefits, according to DWD's website. That means those filing new initial applications for unemployment starting the week of March 14 will experience the one-week waiting period, Kim said.
Oddly, this week marks the restoration of the Feds paying 100% of the unemployment costs that occur due to removing that one-week waiting period (it was 50% between New Year's and ARPA). But even though it costs state taxpayers ZERO and adds stability for out-of-work Wisconsinites, WisGOP's claim that everything is economically fine in March 2021, and therefore don't feel a need to do anything. But that may be by design in WisGOP World. Vos's "things are fine" theme is starting to be echoed by employers complaints that these unemployment benefits may be too helpful for potential workers.
"We're seeing a decline in applications," Sarah Luchsinger, Vice President of Organization Development for SEEK Careers [in Wausau].

Luchsinger is on the front lines of this issue. Although she thinks extended benefits are important for some industries, its not one-size-fits-all.

"There are a lot of workers out there that could be earning a larger amount of money than they are," said Luchsinger….

"Right now, here in Wausau there are jobs that are paying between 15 to 16 dollars-an-hour for entry-level. And that's going to pay that person more than what they would make on unemployment," said Luchsinger.

She says its an employees market and there are plenty of jobs in Wisconsin.
Of course, Ms. Luchsinger is not saying what those jobs are - I would surmise they require certain skills and certifications, and are not something that some random person can get off the street. And if those jobs are more than unemployment would give someone, why wouldn't they take it? The assertion doesn't really add up to me, and we're still seeing well over 13,000 Wisconsinites file new claims each week (and over 100,000 overall) - far above the 5,000 that were filing new claims before the COVID World came to Wisconsin in March 2020.

DC is doing their job in making sure that the large numbers of people still out of work in March 2021 stay afloat and continue to pay their bills. But WisGOPs and Wisconsin employers need to do their part in helping those same job losers and job seekers stay on their feet as we start to come out of the COVID-induced gloom.

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