'Massive issues': Local businesses react to GOP push to reduce unemployment benefits

’Massive issues’: Local businesses react to GOP push to reduce unemployment benefits

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Republican lawmakers introduced a package of bills that would create more strict policies in order to receive and maintain unemployment benefits in Wisconsin.

The proposals would require audits of recipients' work search requirements, take away unemployment benefits if people don't show up for a job interview, and penalize those on Medicaid if they turn down a job offer.

Republicans touted their series of bills during a press conference at the Capitol, saying these measures will help employers struggling to find workers.

"We're here to put the pieces together, so if people are looking for work, the Department of Workforce Development can actually be accountable for finding the positions that will help them find a career," said State Rep. Warren Petrky (R-Town of Washington).

Wisconsin's unemployment rate sits at 3%, according to the latest data from November. However, some local business owners say they are still struggling to find enough workers.

Omar Shaikh, owner of Carnevor restaurant, said they are no longer open seven days a week and had to reduce hours because they're short-staffed.

"We've had massive issues," Shaikh said. "I feel like we're running ads every single week and we're always short positions."

Republicans are proposing legislation that would:

  • Reduce the number of weeks, from 26 to 14, someone is eligible for benefits if the unemployment rate drops.
  • Mandate the Department of Workforce Development to conduct random audits over recipients' work search requirements to make sure they remain eligible.
  • Temporarily take away Medicaid benefits from able-bodied, childless adults who reject a job offer.
  • Require DWD to expand its call center hours to help people apply for benefits if there's a massive uptick in those seeking unemployment.
  • Deny benefits to those who don't show up for an interview

Shaikh supports Republican efforts to get more people back into the workforce, adding he knows people who are refusing to go back since receiving unemployment checks.

"I can tell you I've had people tell me they are getting benefits so they don't want to come back to work," Skaikh said.

Other business owners are not buying Republicans' pitch to solve the problem.

Tim Eichinger, co-owner of Black Husky Brewing, has his doubts people are abusing the unemployment system.

"I've been on unemployment before and you are not driving around in a Cadillac, smoking cigars and drinking champagne -- you barely get enough money to make ends meet," Eichinger said. "There might be a few people scamming the system to a certain extent, but I don't think it's going to make that big of a difference."

While there's no one solution to the labor shortage, Eichinger believes the problem has worsened because more people are revaluating their careers during the pandemic.

Black Husky Brewing is not suffering from a severe shortage of workers, Eichinger said, but he thinks improving the work environment and making employees feel appreciated can make all the difference.

"At the end of the day it's not about money, benefits, or opportunities for growth, it's about how people feel they are being treated," said Eichinger. "If you treat people fairly, they are open to taking less money because they actually like what they are doing."

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