Wisconsin Senate Passes Bipartisan Unemployment Bill

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Senate passed a bipartisan bill Thursday designed to begin updating the state’s antiquated unemployment insurance system that Gov. Tony Evers has blamed for causing delays in the processing of claims filed during the coronavirus pandemic.

The measure also includes portions of a COVID-19 bill that Evers vetoed. It would waive the one-week waiting period to receive unemployment benefits until March 14 and extend limited liability from coronavirus-related lawsuits to businesses, governments and schools. Other provisions of the earlier bill that Evers objected to, like forbidding employers from requiring workers to get the vaccine, are not included.

The Senate passed the bill on a 27-3 vote, with Democrats Lena Taylor, Chris Larson and Tim Carpenter, all of Milwaukee, voting against it.

It now heads to the Assembly, which could vote on it as soon as Tuesday.

While the bill would start the process of upgrading the state’s outdated computer systems that handle unemployment insurance claims, there is no funding provided. Instead, the state would have to use federal money to begin the process and then seek additional funding from the GOP-controlled Legislature.

The backlog in processing claims has been a political liability for Evers midway through his second term. He called a special session of the Legislature to consider his plan to fix it. Republicans presented the bill passed Thursday as a compromise.

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