Today, Governor Evers signed into law a bipartisan overhaul of Wisconsin’s unemployment system. But, the bill comes after nearly a year of inaction as Wisconsinites have struggled to get their unemployment checks.
In a video posted to his Twitter page earlier today, the Governor said the bill was “a first step toward ensuring something like this never happens to the people of Wisconsin again.”
But, the overhaul signed into law today does not yet include specific funding. Instead, the bill directs the Department of Workforce Development to begin the process of contracting out the overhaul using existing funds. .
During the pandemic, legislative Republicans and the Democratic governor have pointed fingers at each other over who is to blame for an unemployment system slow to process claims. Governor Evers has called on the legislature to do something about the unemployment system for months. Meanwhile, state Republicans have said Evers has everything he needs to fix the system.
Last September, Evers fired the head of the then head of the Department of Workforce Development, Caleb Frostman, hiring in his place Amy Pehacheck, who told WORT last month that the state needs to modernize its unemployment system.
Wisconsin’s unemployment insurance system has been using a programming language popular in the 1970s and updates to the unemployment system has been put off for more than a decade under several administrations, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Former Democratic Governor Jim Doyle attempted an unemployment revamp in 2007, but abandoned the plan. And former Republican Governor Scott Walker, while presented with evidence of the need to update the process, did not take up a revamp. In today’s video address, Evers pointed to past failed efforts, saying the problem “could have been addressed by previous administrations and more than a decade’s worth of state legislators who knew this system was outdated.”
The bill signed today also temporarily renews the waiver on a one week waiting period for unemployment benefits. It also sets up a legal shield for businesses and schools for COVID-19 illnesses.
Photo credit: still from @GovEvers on Twitter.