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WMC cites worker shortage, urges Evers to end enhanced federal unemployment benefits

Published: May. 11, 2021 at 10:22 PM CDT|Updated: May. 11, 2021 at 10:31 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce wants Governor Tony Evers to pull the state out of the enhanced federal unemployment assistance program, hoping the move will ease workforce shortages.

The WMC’s letter to the governor comes after several other states, including Iowa, decided to pulled the plug. Kurt Bauer, the president and CEO of the WMC, wrote, “The inability of employers to find workers has reached a crisis level in Wisconsin.”

The WMC represents roughly 3,800 businesses of different sizes. Bauer told NBC15, “The reality is that they are competing with the federal government right now for labor, and the federal government is paying people to stay home.”

Until September, the maximum unemployment benefit someone could get in Wisconsin is $670 per week, roughly $16.75 an hour.

“That is a disincentive for some to go back to work,” Bauer said. “That’s what we’re hearing from our members. People are telling them that they will come back to work when the enhanced benefits expire on Labor Day.”

Noah Williams, an economics professor at UW-Madison and director at the Center for Research on the Wisconsin Economy, said 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.

Bauer said Gov. Evers had not responded to his letter Tuesday afternoon. The governor also declined an interview with NBC15 due to scheduling conflicts.

Meanwhile, Speaker Robin Vos, the top Republican in the state, shared this statement, in part: “With the pandemic under control we need to get people back into the workforce so Wisconsin’s economy can continue to recover.”

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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