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50 Chambers of Commerce ask Wisconsin to end federal unemployment benefit

Updated: May. 17, 2021 at 5:17 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Dozens of Wisconsin chambers of commerce have banded together to urge Gov. Tony Evers and state lawmakers to stop paying the additional $300 per week in federal pandemic-related unemployment benefits.

The organizations argue pulling the benefit will encourage people to enter the workforce and curb the labor shortage its member businesses are experiencing. Their joint letter noted the shortfall of workers is not related to the pandemic, stating that businesses were hard-pressed to find workers prior to the spread of coronavirus.

The letter contends the $300 per week additional benefit was not needed in the state at the time it was passed and means “businesses are competing against government benefits that incentivize people to stay home.”

Instead of passing along the federal benefit, the chambers ask lawmakers to use other stimulus money provided to Wisconsin to offer bonuses to workers who get new jobs, saying several other states, including Iowa, Montana, and South Carolina, have implemented similar plans.

The organizations also asked the state to reinstate a talent attractions campaign that had been developed in 2018 to lure working age people to the Badger State.

The state Chamber of Commerce, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, which was one of the fifty signatories to the letter, also sent its own letter to Evers last week reiterating its claim that the “inability of employers to find workers has reached a crisis level in Wisconsin.”

Noah Williams, an economics professor at UW-Madison and director at the Center for Research on the Wisconsin Economy, told NBC15 News’ Michelle Baik at that time unemployment benefits are not the only reason why there is a reduction in labor supply.

“Another one certainly has been the delayed reopenings of schools or even the hybrid plan that most schools are on here now in the state or certainly in the area, which does increase requirements for childcare and so people may not be able to go back to work full time,” he said.

On whether the WMC’s call to end the expanded unemployment assistance program would bring workers back, Williams said, “I don’t know that it would solve the problem.” He added that, as seen in previous examples, more people return to work when benefits expire.

Williams suggested the way to bring workers back is not by cutting government benefits but adding another incentive, like a bonus after a month of starting a new job.

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