$140M flows to Wisconsin tourism, entertainment industry but worker shortage remains

NOW: $140M flows to Wisconsin tourism, entertainment industry but worker shortage remains

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LAKE GENEVA, Wis. (CBS 58) --  Soon, Wisconsin's tourism and entertainment industry will receive $140 million to help them recover from the pandemic, but the state's largest business group is calling for more investments to attract workers to fill jobs.

Gov. Tony Evers announced he's directing $140 million in federal coronavirus aid towards the tourism and entertainment industry including live event venues, movie theaters, summer camps, minor league sports and the lodging industry.

  • $75 million for lodging grants
  • $11.25 million for movie theaters
  • $12 million for live event small businesses
  • $2.8 million for minor league sports teams
  • $10 million for live venues
  • $15 million for destination marketing organizations
  • $8 million for summer camps
  • $1 million for the Wisconsin Historical Society to assist in reopening historical sites
  • $7.5 million to increase marketing support for Wisconsin's tourism industry

While there's no doubt the money will help, Wisconsin's Chamber of Commerce said there's a bigger problem at stake to keep the industries afloat. They addressed the workforce shortage.

"It's really becoming a desperate situation, that's why we're calling it a workforce emergency," said Kurt Bauer, president/CEO of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce.

A recent survey conducted by WMC shows 86% of their members are struggling to hire and 85% support eliminating the extra $300 a week in enhanced unemployment benefits as a way to incentivize people to go back to work.

Gov. Evers said he's currently reviewing a bill that would remove Wisconsin's participation from the federal program that distributes the unemployment bonus, but he also doesn't think that's the reason behind the worker shortage.

"We need more people in this state," said Evers. "The number of jobs completely outstrip the number of people we need to fill those jobs."

The unemployed are required to conduct four work search requirements in order to receive their benefits, which is another reason why Evers indicated he will likely veto the Republican bill to take away the weekly bonus.

"We expect them to be searching for jobs, if not, we remove that benefit from them," said Evers.

However, Bauer said many of his members share while they schedule job interviews, many don't show up or decide to leave after a few days.

"Businesses are trying to give away incentives such as signing bonuses, gift cards for people to come back, but then they don't," said Bauer. "[Evers] knows darn well we've got a problem and extra benefits are exacerbating it."

The threat of losing unemployment benefits in two dozen states did trigger a small increase in the number of people looking for work, but it was short-lived according to research from Indeed Hiring.

In a letter to the governor, WMC cited the research and urged his administration to work with them on more solutions to address the labor shortage.

Bauer is also asking Evers to invest in talent attraction campaigns to recruit workers to Wisconsin, a program first launched by former Governor Scott Walker.

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