Wisconsin lawmakers on April 25 passed several bills related to unemployment insurance, including one that would index the length of unemployment insurance benefits to the state’s unemployment rate. Assembly Bill 153 would reduce the maximum number of benefit weeks to 14 during times when the unemployment rate is at or below 3.5%. The bill also proposes capping the maximum benefit length at 26 weeks during times when the unemployment rate is more than 9%.
Wisconsin’s current maximum benefit length is 26 weeks, and the state’s unemployment rate in February was 2.7%, according to preliminary data from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD). The maximum weekly benefit would fall by 12 weeks (from 26 weeks to 14 weeks) if the bill becomes law and the unemployment rate remains stable.
The other bills in the package include provisions that propose:
- Broadening the definition of employment misconduct that would disqualify a fired person from claiming unemployment benefits.
- Requiring the DWD to create a process through which employers can disclose any known information about unemployment claimants that might disqualify them from benefits eligibility.
- Changing language referring to unemployment insurance to read reemployment assistance in all relevant state statutes and requiring drug testing for certain claimants.
- Requiring claimants to prove their identities when filing initial unemployment insurance claims.
The package of bills now advances to the state Senate for consideration. The legislation is similar to a package that Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) vetoed in the previous legislative session.
Unemployment insurance is a joint federal and state program that provides temporary monetary benefits to eligible laid-off workers who are actively seeking new employment. Qualifying individuals receive unemployment compensation as a percentage of their lost wages in the form of weekly cash benefits while they search for new employment.
The federal government oversees the general administration of state unemployment insurance programs. The states control the specific features of their unemployment insurance programs, such as eligibility requirements and length of benefits.
For information about unemployment insurance programs across the country, click here.