Unemployment Insurance – Public Hearing
Department of Workforce Development – Unemployment Insurance Advisory Council
Janell Knutson, Chair
Unemployment Insurance Advisory Council
P.O. Box 8942
Madison, WI 53708
Re: Unemployment Insurance – Public Hearing
To the Department of Workforce Development’s Unemployment Insurance Advisory Council.
The 40,000 working men and women of the Wisconsin Building Trades Council must address a treasure our unions fought for long ago, Unemployment Insurance. While we pride ourselves on keeping our hard-working men and women on the job and collecting a paycheck for a day of work, we know that unmitigated issues and circumstances can find their way into our nation and state’s economy as well as our personal lives.
For those of you who have not experienced unemployment, I can tell you job loss is a frightening experience. Families are spun into crisis. It could mean the loss of everything they’ve worked to build. Without work, foreclosure, repossession, and utility cut-offs suddenly become a potential reality. The insecurity created by the buzz of a layoff is intense enough to keep families on edge and creates a poor quality of life. That is why we are testifying protect and strengthen Wisconsin’s unemployment insurance benefits.
The items we want to point out today are the one week waiting period and to raise the weekly rate of pay.
We suggest Wisconsin permanently waives the One week waiting Period for these reasons:
Claimants are statutorily permitted to 26 weeks of benefits, taking 27 weeks does not save any costs for the state and could jeopardize a family’s livelihood. This has been recently exacerbated by the COVID19 pandemic and we must respond now to ensure this carries on.
With the waiting period’s suspension seeing its sunset in February 2021, we can easily see that the effects of the pandemic have in no way shape, or form given our economy any certainty as to when we will fully recover – if ever. This permanent waiver will provide those without employment a stable economy for their most immediate and necessary expenses. With this in mind, this program is designed not only to fill a gap for a family but also keeps these displaced workers in a place to consume goods from local businesses further stimulating our local economy. A permanent waiver for the One week waiting period is a good thing for Wisconsin, taxpayers, businesses, and those immediately affected.
Our second suggestion is to Raise the Weekly Rate.
This is a place where we can see benefits across a spectrum of those immediately and indirectly affected. Currently, the state level Unemployment benefits maximum is at a rate of $9.00 per hour or $370 weekly. Based on a middle-class lifestyle this is scarcely enough to pay monthly bills. Raising the maximum rate will help middle-class families struggling and will help the economies of local communities struggling during this pandemic. Life’s staples are expensive, at every corner and turn we have grocery, utilities, rent, vehicle, telecommunications like internet and phone – life is not cheap and necessities have far outpaced the current maximum benefit. If an individual loses access to any of those items listed, we can be sure the unemployed individual will likely not be able to access another job or career when the economy does recover. We must point out this weekly rate has not been raised since 2014; it is the lowest of every state that borders Wisconsin including Iowa and we know that we are better than that and that we are fiscally capable of Raising the Weekly Rate for displaced workers in Wisconsin.
In conclusion, the Wisconsin Building Trades Council seeks to improve the lives of working people, whether it be safety, benefits, wages, or in this case unemployment insurance – we know that our agencies can achieve a higher standard, and we know that there are people out there needing your help in these tumultuous times.
Thank you for your consideration and time.
Wisconsin Building Trades Council
The Wisconsin Building Trades Council (WBTC) is a membership organization representing the interests of 15 trade organizations and over 40,000 working men and women across the entire State of Wisconsin. The trade organization members of the WBTC are:
Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers Carpenters
Insulators & Allied Workers
Operative Plasterers & Cement Masons Painters & Allied Trades
Sheet Metal Workers