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.
Evers signaled he would sign the bill once it passes the Assembly 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While the bill would start the process of upgrading the state’s outdated computer systems that handle unemployment insurance claims, there is no funding provided.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 on a bipartisan 27-3 vote Thursday as a compromise. Democrats Lena Taylor, Chris Larson and Tim Carpenter, all of Milwaukee, voting against it.
“While I wish the Legislature would have provided the funding we asked for that we need to fix this system once and for all, I’m glad the Legislature is finally be taking this issue seriously after years of inaction,” Evers said in a statement. "It’s not enough, but it’s at least a step in the right direction.”
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.