Our view: State jobless benefits need reform

2013-01-24T00:45:00Z Our view: State jobless benefits need reformTribune editorial board La Crosse Tribune
January 24, 2013 12:45 am  • 

A proposal by Gov. Scott Walker to change the rules regarding Wisconsin unemployment benefits should be given serious consideration by the Legislature.

The economic downturn and slow recovery has put a burden on the unemployment benefits safety net that has helped many Wisconsin families survive the past few years.

Increased unemployment claims drained the state’s jobless reserve funds and left it with a $1.2 billion deficit at the start of 2012.

The fund borrowed money from the federal government, and the state raised assessments on all Wisconsin employers who pay into the fund.

While the length of time that people can collect unemployment benefits has been reduced, people who file today still would be eligible for benefits for up to 63 weeks. Twenty-six weeks are under the state program, and the remaining time falls under emergency benefits recently revised and signed by President Barack Obama that remain in effect through the end of the year.

Unemployment benefits are designed to help bridge the gap between jobs for workers, who continue to receive some money while they seek a new job. The amount received is based on an income formula, but the maximum amount is $363 a week.

It’s a challenge finding work during a period of very slow job recovery, but there are some who cheat the system, perhaps because they have given up looking for work or somehow feel entitled to receive the money.

The Department of Workforce Development says in 2011 there were about 37,000 fraudulent unemployment claims in Wisconsin. In 2010 the state paid $37 million in fraudulent payments and $41.4 million in overpayment errors.

Among the changes proposed by Walker would be to require unemployed workers to complete four job applications a week instead of two and to require additional documentation to reduce fraud. The proposal also would restrict the reasons a person can refuse work for reasons such as illness, travel distance or physical restrictions.

The proposal also would narrow the list of exceptions for workers who quit a job and still receive unemployment. Wisconsin has 18 quit exemptions, higher than any other state in the Midwest. Minnesota is second with nine.

Walker’s proposals are part of a larger overhaul of state rules and regulations that are the result of direct feedback from businesses all over the state that were surveyed or invited to meet with state officials. Many are common-sense changes.

Wisconsin’s unemployment rules have traditionally been set by an advisory council of employers and unions. It’s important to get feedback from this council before proceeding with any of the changes.

We should all support rule changes that would reduce the amount of fraud and save businesses money. We all pay when people are dishonest.

But we encourage further discussion of unemployment benefits to allow more common-sense transition into the workforce. An unemployed worker working a few hours a week while training for a new job should not be penalized. Perhaps the amount of benefits should be front-loaded and reduced toward the end of the eligibility period to encourage people to find work sooner.

However, the real solution to the challenges of unemployment benefits is to have fewer people in the system — not through more restrictions but through more jobs. The governor and the Legislature must stay true to their word and put a top priority on legislation and policy that will boost the sluggish economy and put more people back to work.

Copyright 2015 La Crosse Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(7) Comments

  1. patssy70
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    patssy70 - January 25, 2013 9:43 am
    The comment that unemployed people think they are entitled to the UI benefts. Well, they ARE entitled to the benefits., If the person is laid off due to no fault of their own. The other problem with the Trib article is that although you cite fraudulent payments and errors, any fraudulen payments and payment erroneously paid are REPAID by the recipient. The guy just doesn't get to keep his erroneously paid beneifts. If the deparment would hire people who know what they re doing instead of people hired because of who they know, there wouldn't be so many ERRORS. NHeopotism is alive and well with the Dept of Workforce Development
  2. timbo
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    timbo - January 25, 2013 7:10 am
    YOU talk like creating jobs is as easy as convincing someone to sign a paycheck. IT’s more complex and psychological than that. UI is just one tax employers pay. Keep lowering taxes on employers AND find them more demand for their goods and services, then employers make take the risk of creating jobs. I hope the UIAC proposed these changes or they don’t stand a chance.
  3. LAX
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    LAX - January 24, 2013 12:10 pm
    Well, thanks, Trib! Let's beat up some more on the unemployed -- they're to blame for everything right? Why not lay off your editorial board and THEN ask them about Unemployment Insurance benefits -- never happen, of course. It is called Unemployment INSURANCE for a reason -- we all pay into it so that it's there if needed. And it isn't JUST business owners who pay into it...in fact, they just pass along the cost of UI to the rest of us. They ultimately don't pay a red cent that they didn't get from the rest of us! SHAME on the Trib -- AGAIN!
  4. baywatch242012
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    baywatch242012 - January 24, 2013 10:45 am
    The Tribune Editorial Board has no business telling ANYONE what they should support and what they shouldn't. They're the last people I'd be looking to for advice on how to think.
  5. superman
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    superman - January 24, 2013 8:23 am
    You have no idea how unemployment is determined, or administered.

    If you were a business owner, and understand the perils of increasing your payroll, then perhaps you'd have a clue. Instead you're just a jealous wannabe.

    Report Abuse
    LAXTEA - January 24, 2013 7:35 am
    The premise that unemployment is supposed to go on indefinitely until the person is employed again is flawed.
  7. Seriously Now
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    Seriously Now - January 24, 2013 6:13 am
    "The real solution to the challenges of unemployment benefits is to have fewer people in the system — not through more restrictions but through more jobs." But first Walker will make it harder for a person who is laid-off through NO fault of their own to get benefits that they deserve due tot he payments made in to the system. What a great leader he is.
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