MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers has done a lot to hamper and hurt Wisconsin’s economy. His repeated failure to listen to job creators in particular could prove absolutely disastrous.
The Democrat said over the weekend that he is leaning toward vetoing a Republican bill that would end the $300 weekly unemployment bonus payment subsidized by federal taxpayers. With the generous benefit, many unemployed in the Badger State are earning nearly $17 an hour not to work — as Wisconsin employers face a crippling worker shortage.
But Evers told “Upfront”, over the weekend that “there isn’t data to support” the complaint that some jobless Wisconsinites would rather stay at home and collect a weekly total of $670 in state and federal unemployment benefits than re-enter the work force.
His assertions are both obtuse and tone deaf, words that have adequately described his tenure in the governor’s office.
Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce sent Evers a letter Monday effectively telling him as much.
WMC and nearly 70 local chambers of commerce and business trade associations statewide have for weeks urged the governor to end the payment, as more than half of the states have done. The thousands of WMC and chamber members say the $300 weekly subsidy is “without question incentivizing people to stay out of the workforce, making an existing labor shortage an emergency.”
The letter, from WMC President and CEO Kurt Bauer, urges the governor to simply talk with businesspeople to know what’s really going on. Or just drive down any Main Street or through any industrial park in Wisconsin to see the record number of “Help Wanted’ and “Now Hiring” signs to get a sense of the desperation so many employers are feeling.
Heck, folks. Evers need only turn to his favorite newspaper to learn that Milwaukee County Parks are having a hell of a time finding hundreds of lifeguards. If they don’t fill the positions, some pools and beaches won’t open for another summer.
“We have four head lifeguards and that means we can only open four facilities,” Jim Tarantino, director of recreation and business services with Milwaukee County Parks, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
On Sunday, the Milwaukee County Transit System announced it will not be offering special shuttle service to Milwaukee’s iconic Summerfest. Why? Yep, worker shortage. MCTS told the Journal Sentinel it hasn’t had so many openings in five years.
The bonus unemployment payments aren’t the only reason for the Badger State’s worker shortage crisis, but they are a big reason, business advocates — and the DATA — assert.
The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco said that the $300 per week supplement was a “noticeable” contributor to the workforce shortage. One in seven people offered a job would turn it down because of the benefits, the Fed said. That’s 14 percent of the potential workforce actively sitting on the sidelines.
If Evers needs more data, he should check research from the Indeed Hiring Lab, which shows job searches experienced a 5 percent boost after states announced they were ending the bonus benefits.
“This shows at least some people were encouraged to get back on the job knowing the benefits were going away,” Bauer wrote in the letter.
“It is human nature to react to incentives. Right now, we have the wrong incentive to get people back to work when we are trying to rebuild our state’s economy after Covid-19,” he added.
Joe Handrick, a former administrator of Wisconsin’s Unemployment Insurance program and executive director of Common Sense Wisconsin, sent out a press release Monday declaring, “Democratic Governor Understands It’s Time to End the Unemployment Bonus: Unfortunately for Wisconsin Employers, It’s the Democratic Governor of Louisiana.”
Handrick was referring to Louisiana’s Gov. John Bel Edwards, who is poised to become the first Democratic governor to pull the plug on the bonus.
“This isn’t a partisan issue, it’s just common sense,” Handrick said. “The quarantine emergency is over, but the $300-a-week unemployment boost has created a new emergency. The Legislature passed a bill to end the extra $300 weekly payment, and the Governor should sign it.”