MM Curator summary
[MM Curator Summary]: Wisconsin lawmakers want to stop Medicaid benefits if a member turns down a job offer.
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MADISON (WKOW) — For Dino Christ, the problems feed off one another. The owner of Nick’s Restaurant on State Street describes an ongoing cycle of not having enough workers and not enough customers either.
With fewer shows at nearby entertainment venues, there’s less traffic. Christ said the missing customer base, along with rising costs amid inflation and supply chain snags, has made it harder to offer more attractive wages and benefits.
“It’s kind of like a culmination of a bunch of things all at once but for two years,” Christ said.
Republican lawmakers unveiled a series of bills Tuesday they said would address some of the issues keeping people from rejoining the workforce. The proposals include measures that would:
- Suspend Medicaid eligibility for six months when a recipient turns down a job offer
- Deny unemployment benefits for a week during which a claimant either rejects or doesn’t show up for a job interview
- Adds a work requirement for all able-bodied, childless adults seeking food stamps
- Ties the unemployment rate to the length of time people can receive unemployment benefits.
Right now, people can collect unemployment pay for 26 weeks. Under the bill, that would only be the case if the unemployment rate hits 9%. At the current rate of 3%, people would only be eligible for 14 weeks’ worth of benefits.
“With the unemployment rate that we currently have and the economy we’re currently in, people don’t need half a year to be finding a job in our workforce,” said Rep. Alex Dallman (R-Green Lake).
Republicans said the measures would incentivize more people to take available jobs and to avoid straining the state’s unemployment system.
“That’s gonna help people essentially increase their employment or step into employment because we know we’ve never seen anybody step out of poverty on a welfare check,” said Senate President Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield).
Democrats pushed back on GOP ideas, pointing to the state recording single-day record highs for new COVID-19 cases and having the nation’s 10th-lowest unemployment rate at 3% as evidence the workforce issues went beyond people simply not wanting to work.
“The policies that I need as a business owner are my government to continue to support safety initiatives, healthier- better health care access, better transportation,” said Rep. Francesca Hong (D-Madison).
Christ said he didn’t know whether the bills would make a difference for his business.
“If I knew the solution, we wouldn’t have this problem,” he replied.
Christ, who took over the restaurant more than 20 years ago after his dad, along the eatery’s namesake, Nick, opened the place on State, said he would prefer if all lawmakers made a concerted effort to promote downtown Madison businesses. Christ said he still heard from people who are unsure about visiting State Street after riots in May 2020 following the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd.
“I still have friends that live on the west side or the east side or outside of downtown that ask me if it’s safe to be downtown,” Christ said. “And I tell them that’s ridiculous.”
Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Tyler August (R-Lake Geneva) said he expected the bills to come up for a vote before the full legislature before the end of February.