MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The state Assembly was poised Tuesday to sign off on a bipartisan bill designed to jumpstart updates to Wisconsin’s antiquated unemployment claims processing system.
The Senate passed the legislation 27-3 last week. Assembly approval would send it to Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, who has pledged to sign it.
Evers has taken intense criticism for months over a backlog of unemployment claims stemming from COVD-19-related shutdowns. He has blamed the processing system, which dates back to the 1970s.
The governor called a special legislative session to consider his plan to spend $5.3 million to start upgrades. Republicans who control the Legislature’s budget committee rewrote the bill to remove any funding. Instead state officials would have to use federal money and seek permission from the committee to access state dollars as needed.
They also inserted portions of a COVID-19 relief bill that Evers vetoed, including provisions that would waive the one-week waiting period for receiving unemployment benefits until March 14 and extended limited liability from COVID-related lawsuits to businesses, governments and schools. The GOP left out other parts of the bill Evers objected to, like forbidding employers from mandating workers get the vaccine.
Republicans have touted the unemployment bill as a compromise. Evers has said it doesn’t go far enough but called it a step in the right direction.