State Senate Votes for Extended Unemployment Benefits, and Drops One-week Waiting Period

Tuesday, July 19, 2011 at 11:04 PM by

The State Senate today passed legislation by a vote of 30-3 that would allow for an additional 13 weeks of federally-funded extended unemployment insurance (UI) benefits in Wisconsin. However, the bill’s path took an unexpected turn when many Senate Republicans joined Democrats in voting to repeal a one-week waiting period for UI benefits that had been added by the Joint Finance Committee to the biennial budget bill.

Wisconsin is one of just a small handful of states (9 by our last count) that is eligible for the additional federally funded UI extension but has not made the minor change needed to implement it. The pending bill, SB 147, seemed to be on the verge of correcting that.  However, as a very good Journal Sentinel article by Jason Stein points out, the amendment relating to the waiting period could be problematic in the Assembly, which creates a risk that the bill will be derailed or delayed (even though both the 13-week extension and elimination of the waiting period were unanimously endorsed by the UI Advisory Council). 

As the Wisconsin Budget Project has previously written,  it’s estimated that the extended benefits will bring in nearly $88 million in federal dollars to Wisconsin to support the unemployed and stimulate Wisconsin’s economy. Wisconsin became ineligible for extended benefits in mid-April of this year. Federal policymakers had changed rules so that states like Wisconsin could again draw down the benefits, initally authorized by the recovery Act, but until recently statge legislators had not acted on the required change in state law that would allow for it.

The State Assembly was expected to pass this legislation on Wednesday, July 20th, and it was assumed the Governor would sign it into law shortly thereafter, but the Senate amendment makes all of that a bit less certain.

Assuming the bill is enacted, eligibility for extended benefits will be retroactive – unemployed individuals who would have received the additional 13 weeks of benefits had they been in place past April will be able to draw them down if they are still eligible. The Department of Workforce Development will be notifying claimants if they are eligible for any additional benefits. 

Ben Nerad and Jon Peacock

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