Wisconsin Unemployment Waiting Period – A Hidden Provision by Governor Walker

Taxation Without RepresentationIf you’re a seasonal worker in Wisconsin and have filed for unemployment insurance benefits in 2012, you may or may not have received the startling news that you will not be receiving the first payment for your 2012 unemployment benefit period.  This is because effective January 01, 2012 there is now what is referred to as the “unemployment waiting period” which essentially withholds the first payment for Wisconsin workers who file for unemployment benefits.

The unemployment waiting period is a provision that is supposed to help curtail the unemployment deficit in Wisconsin. The Department of Workforce Development estimates that workers will lose between $41 million to $56 million in unemployment benefits due to the waiting period.  Wisconsin is not the only state that has rising unemployment costs which create huge deficits in the budget, and relief funds from the federal level have all but been exhausted.  Do other states rob benefits from their workers?

It is becoming apparent that Wisconsin workers have taken a giant step backwards under provisions included in WI Act 32, the Wisconsin State Budget covering the period of July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2013.  The “unemployment waiting period” is clearly a hidden provision by Governor Walker.  Despite a veto request by all labor and management representatives on the Unemployment Insurance Advisory Council, Governor Walker still signed the provision into law. For many decades the Advisory Council made changes to unemployment benefits through a balanced, negotiated agreement involving employers and labor, but Walker simply side-stepped the process in an effort to balance the budget.


What Does This Mean For Wisconsin Seasonal Workers?

The extreme cuts made in the budget are just starting to rear their ugly heads, decimating middle class workers who are already in a financial tight spot due to decreased work, layoff, or recent job loss.

As an employee for reputable Waukesha roofing company my work is seasonal, but I often work throughout the winter months.  In many instances inclimate weather hinders our ability to perform our job and we must file an unemployment claim here and there.  Like masons, carpenters, and other seasonal workers, roofers usually don’t have long periods of layoff during winter months, and in most cases layoffs are intermittent because we are able to work once the bad weather passes.  (It is worthy to note that because winter makes roofing harder to perform, we already earn fewer wages because our pay is production-based and production is much, much slower.)  For example, in 2011 I claimed unemployment for a total of four weeks between December and April, and I was still eligible to claim 22 more weeks of unemployment.


Wisconsin Businesses Pay in to Unemployment Insurance.

If you’re like me you are probably wondering why, when a person such as me works 45 weeks out of the year, my first week of unemployment benefits is withheld despite the fact that my employer pays the state for my unemployment insurance coverage?  It only begs the question as to how Wisconsin, through legislative fiat, can legally deprive an individual of an insurance benefit that has already been paid by the employer.  Does this somehow equate to taxation without representation?


There is a Solution.

The unemployment deficit in Wisconsin was created because the state extended benefits to individuals who lost their jobs during the economic recession and their benefits ultimately ran dry.  I have empathy for people who lost their job and have families and children to support and feed, but… Allowing extended unemployment insurance benefits to go on endlessly is not right.  In my opinion individuals who receive or have been receiving extended unemployment insurance benefits should be the candidates that forfeit a week of benefits.  Essentially they are receiving payments, not from insurance benefits paid by their employer, but from funds generated through other businesses, companies, and federal funding.

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