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Photo: Google Maps .
Created: July 16, 2020 12:00 PM
Democratic lawmakers released proposals Thursday designed to help alleviate a backlog in processing of unemployment claims as Gov. Tony Evers' administration temporarily reassigned 100 state workers to help get benefits to those forced out of work due to the coronavirus.
The pair of moves came before the state was to announce unemployment totals for June. Unemployment was 12% in May after hitting a high of 13.6% in April as businesses shut down in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
The Department of Workforce Development has struggled to process the claims of everyone seeking unemployment. Currently about 141,000 people were awaiting payments, a backlog that Republicans who control the Legislature have loudly criticized.
Democratic lawmakers on Thursday introduced a package of bills they said would remove hurdles to getting the benefits. Republicans have proposed tapping federal funding to pay benefits while people await verification that they qualify. Evers dismissed that idea on Monday as a "political stunt."
The Democratic bills would, among other things, lower the work search requirement necessary from four to two per week in order to receive benefits. The bills would also allow people with disabilities who are able to work to be eligible to receive unemployment. The bills would further expand the authority of the Department of Workforce Development to increase access to unemployment benefits when appropriate.
Republican Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke responded to the proposals saying that "Democrats are feeling the heat of Tony Evers' failures."
"The Evers' administration's response to this unemployment crisis has been nothing short of a dumpster fire," Steineke said in a statement. "The tired proposals trotted out today would only serve to expand eligibility to an already strained system and fuel the flames of the problem at hand."
Steineke said the proposals do nothing to address problems at the department and will only expand the number of people eligible for benefits.
Evers' administration on Thursday said it was reassigning 100 state workers to help with the processing of claims. It said the reassignments average six weeks. Combining transfers, new hires and contracted vendors, the Department of Workforce Development has more than tripled the number of workers who are processing unemployment claims from 500 to 1,800, Evers' administration said.
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