Wisconsin has found itself target of criticism after it was reported that the state will ask unemployed citizens to return the extra $300 in aid they were given, if Congress passes a second stimulus checks bill. According to USA Today, the money that citizens are being asked to give back is what was given under the executive orders signed by President Donald Trump. The orders were for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to distribute funds for unemployment benefit supplement, following the $600 benefit amount that expired in July.
There is some confusion over whether or not this is a state-issued order or a federal one. USA Today reported that a spokesperson from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development said the state is simply following FEMA and Department of Labor guidance. FEMA — which was tasked with handling the funding for Trump's Lost Wages Assistance program — has stated that the states are the ones who administer the program and that it merely provides the funding. Other states that received the additional funding — Colorado, Indiana, Georgia, Iowa, Alabama, Idaho, Arizona, Arkansas, Hawaii, Alaska and Nebraska — do not appear to have confirmed this requirement.
Wisconsin residents receiving an extra $300 in weekly unemployment benefits are being asked to pay back the money if Congress enacts new legislation to replace the jobless aid created by President Trump's executive action last month. https://t.co/8yOfqssnhN— Des Moines Register (@DMRegister) September 12, 2020
Heidi Shierholz, senior economist and director of policy at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, spoke to USA Today, and shared some professional insight on the matter. "All of this confusion just makes for more administrative burdens at a time when people are going longer without benefits, living standards are declining and poverty is rising after millions lost their jobs through no fault of their own from the pandemic," Shierholz said. It is currently unknown how unemployment recipients would pay the money back if formally expected to.
Notably, Wisconsin has had a number of issues with unemployment. Earlier this month, it was reported by Fox 6 Milwaukee that there are Wisconsinites who have been waiting on unemployment claims that were filed as far back as March. Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers commented on the issue, saying that he was aware of the issue, but that his hands were tied.
"Previously there was an audit bureau study of this system years ago that said it needed to be replaced or updated. It's an old system," Evers said, adding that he has no idea how long it will take for the issue to be fixed. "That is unacceptable. I've talked to other governors. They're having the same problems we are...It all has to do with the system we inherited."