Evers signs bill for modernizing state’s unemployment system

Gov. Tony Evers signs legislation authorizing upgrades to the state unemployment system on Feb....
Gov. Tony Evers signs legislation authorizing upgrades to the state unemployment system on Feb. 5, 2021.(Gov. Tony Evers' Office)
Published: Feb. 25, 2021 at 11:46 AM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - After a year in which the coronavirus pandemic exposed the weaknesses in the state’s unemployment infrastructure the system is getting a much needed upgrade.

On Thursday, Gov. Tony Evers signed special session legislation authorizing the upgrade, accusing the legislature and previous administrations, which included both Democratic and Republican governors, of more than a decade of inaction.

Calling the measure “a step in the right direction,” Evers said the problems faced by the Dept. of Workforce Development aren’t new and noting this isn’t the first recent crisis that tried the unemployment system. “We saw these problems brought to bear during the Great Recession. We saw it again during COVID-19.”

The bill passed the state Senate overwhelmingly and with bipartisan support, on a 27-3 vote, last week before clearing the Assembly unanimously Tuesday.

“The legislation provides a simple and easy roadmap for the governor to finally move forward at upgrading the unemployment insurance computer systems,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said.

Evers has taken intense criticism for months over a backlog of unemployment claims stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. He has largely blamed the state’s antiquated, 50-year-old computer processing system for handling the claims.

The bill as passed also waives the one-week waiting period for receiving unemployment benefits until March 14 and extends limited liability from COVID-related lawsuits to businesses, governments and schools.

Copyright 2021 WMTV. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.