Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) – the combined state chamber and manufacturer’s association – urged lawmakers to support Senate Bill 354 (SB 354), legislation that would end Wisconsin’s participation in pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits and help address Wisconsin’s workforce shortage.
On Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Labor and Regulatory Reform held a hearing on SB 354, which was introduced by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Sen. Howard Marklein. The legislation would end many pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits, including the $300 federal enhancement that unemployment claimants receive on top of the state’s up to $370 weekly benefit. Together, the benefits are the equivalent of nearly $17 per hour.
At the hearing, business leaders expressed their concern about the crisis-level workforce shortage.
“We have companies that cannot grow,” said QPS Employment Group Chairman & CEO Scott Mayer. “They’re literally shutting down because they can’t find people.” Formrite Companies Owner & CEO Dave Wage echoed the sentiment. “Back then before the pandemic, we were already struggling to find employees and now we’re back into that situation,” he said during his testimony.
“We can’t even find people to interview,” added Bevco Engineering Company Inc. CEO Chris Shult. “It’s not a matter of we can’t find anyone that’s viable, it’s a matter of we can’t find anyone to even interview.”
For the past month, WMC has urged lawmakers to end these federal benefits because Wisconsinites are being paid to stay home while employers are desperate to hire. In fact, the Job Center of Wisconsin website routinely lists over 100,000 jobs available in the state on any given day. WMC’s Senior Director of Workforce & Employment Policy Chris Reader testified in favor of SB 354 as an immediate solution for addressing Wisconsin’s growing workforce shortage crisis.
“Businesses are not only facing competition from themselves, but we’re here today because they’re facing competition from the government that’s largely paying the same wage as many entry level positions and it’s keeping people at home,” said Reader during the public hearing. “We’ve reached out to the governor on this and unfortunately we’ve been ignored. We’re in a hole with the workforce shortage crisis and the government just keeps digging – making it worse for people to want to join the workforce.”
WMC and the business community strongly urge lawmakers to support SB 354 and its companion bill, Assembly Bill 336. The Assembly version will have a public hearing on Wednesday morning where WMC will testify in support of the bill.