MADISON — Sara Ninmann’s business has taken two beatings over the past year and a half thanks in large part to Gov. Tony Evers.
Her Oconomowoc hair salon catering to kids, Snips & Giggles like every other Wisconsin business the Evers administration deemed ’non-essential,” was forced to close for 10 weeks after the governor issued his “safer at home” order in the opening days of the pandemic.
When the lockdowns finally lifted and Ninmann’s customers came back, Evers made it harder for the salon to find workers.
“We weren’t sure we were going to survive COVID,” the business owner said. “Now that we’re back open and doing well, I don’t know that we can survive because I can’t find enough people to want to work.”
Evers first shot small business and the Wisconsin economy in the back earlier this year when he vetoed a Republican bill that would have ended a $300 weekly federal unemployment bonus payment. Two-dozen states have dropped the federal pandemic-related supplement. Evers could have done so months ago.
Business advocates and economic experts say the continuation of the enhanced pandemic assistance is keeping would-be workers out of the active labor force because they’re earning more in public handouts than they would at a job. That’s only worsening a worker shortage crisis that is forcing businesses to cut hours, cut production, and, in some cases close.
In July, Assembly Democrats sustained the economically disastrous veto. Every member of the minority party sided with the Democratic governor, just enough votes to stave off the two-thirds needed to override.
Evers has insisted he sees no evidence of the federal supplements keeping the jobless out of the job market. Small business owners throughout the state beg to differ.
A Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce Employer Survey showed Wisconsin’s workforce shortage has become a workforce emergency, with nearly nine in 10 businesses struggling to hire. A report this summer by Morning Consult found nearly 2 million people would return to the U.S. workforce when the benefits come to an end. The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco said one in seven workers turned down a job offer due to the extra benefits.
“If you pay people over $17 an hour tax-free to stay home and not work, there are going to be fewer people working,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said in July. “It’s not rocket science.”
The enhanced payment is set to expire on Monday. The Biden administration has called on states to tap into their federal coronavirus aid to extend unemployment benefits. That doesn’t appear to be in the cards, according to CNBC. As much as he refused to listen to the pleas of businesses statewide and end the $300 bonus, Evers has not said whether he’ll dip into the dwindling billions of dollars he has had at his disposal for expanded unemployment benefits.
Ninmann has operated her hair salon for nearly a decade. She doesn’t know how she’ll make it into the next decade if the severe worker shortage persists.
“So now I don’t have applicants coming in or people who even want to work because they’re getting paid to stay at home,” the small business owner said. “Gov. Evers has made it harder to get employees.”