Erik Gunn

GOP Inaction Cost Wisconsin $25 Million

Already depleted unemployment trust fund misses out on millions in federal aid.

By , Wisconsin Examiner - May 8th, 2020 10:14 am
Robin Vos and Scott Fitzgerald.

Robin Vos and Scott Fitzgerald.

With claims reaching record levels, Wisconsin’s unemployment trust fund could run out as soon as October, the state Department of Workforce Development (DWD) said Thursday.

The trust fund balance — financed by unemployment insurance tax payments made by employers — stood at $1.86 billion as of Wednesday, DWD announced.

The department released data projecting three alternative scenarios depending on how many claims are filed weekly. At the high end, which projects 255,000 payable claims a week, the trust fund would have 24.4 weeks remaining, the department said, with funds exhausted by Oct. 11, 2020. At the low end, with 85,000 payable claims a week, the fund would last nearly a year longer, running out Sept. 19, 2021. The average weekly benefit amount is $325.

The scenarios rely on assumptions and don’t represent a projection of what claims will be, DWD states.

The current volume of unemployment claims has been topping 300,000 a week, DWD reported — nearly 200% higher than the average number of weekly claims in the first year of the 2008 Great Recession.

Since an emergency health order March 12 triggered a wave of business closures to stop the spread of the virus responsible for the illness COVID-19, the total number of unemployment applications through Saturday, May 2, reached 498,297, according to DWD.

In a development initially reported in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, DWD stated that Wisconsin had missed out on a federal deadline for $25 million in aid to cover the first week of jobless pay because Republican leaders in the state Legislature didn’t schedule the state’s special session to approve Wisconsin’s COVID-19 relief package until the week of April 13. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) had sent a letter on April 3 to Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos warning them that delaying the session risked missing out on the funds.

Nationwide, the jobless rate reached 14% in April, the U.S. Labor Department reported on Friday.

Reprinted with permission of Wisconsin Examiner.

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