MADISON — As Wisconsin’s worker shortage grows more severe, U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher is proposing a “signing bonus” to get the jobless back to work and off of economy-killing federal unemployment subsidies.
The Allouez Republican this week introduced the National Signing Bonus Act of 2021. It would allow each state’s workforce department to use federal unemployment supplement funds as a “re-employment” bonus equal to more than two months of the federal enhanced employment benefits.
As it stands, unemployed Wisconsinites are entitled to up to $370 per week in state unemployment benefits and a bonus of $300 weekly through the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program.
As Wisconsin Spotlight reports, many claimants are taking in $670 a week in jobless relief — or about $17 an hour. In short, some unemployed Wisconsinites are making more staying home than they are at work. There’s little incentive to get back into the labor force.
Gallagher says his bill converting federal funding into recruitment incentives would “reinvigorate” the U.S. workforce.
“Life is getting back to normal and our economy is ready to roar. But small businesses across Northeast Wisconsin are still struggling because of misguided policies that encourage Americans not to work,” Gallagher said in a press release. “If Governor Evers isn’t going to end this disastrous program — as more than 20 other states have already done — the least we can do is allow for states to spend these dollars in a way that actually encourages people to rejoin the workforce.”
Evers has threatened to veto legislation that would end the federal bonus, which is officially set to expire in September.
Gallagher’s signing bonus would be made in two payments to individuals who demonstrate new and continued employment. The first payment would be made after an individual can verify four weeks of employment, and the second payment will be made after an individual completes eight weeks of employment. Once they return to work, individuals would no longer be able to receive FPUC or other unemployment benefits.
U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) introduced companion legislation in the Senate earlier this month.
Gallagher said the bill is supported by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the Greater Green Bay Chamber of Commerce, KI Manufacturing, and the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce.
“The workforce shortage has reached a crisis level in Wisconsin, and it has only been made worse because the enhanced unemployment benefits are a disincentive to work,” said Kurt Bauer, WMC president and CEO. “The business community applauds Congressman Gallagher’s efforts to get people back to work with this legislation.”