MADISON – Gov. Tony Evers announced Friday he is seeking to provide an extra $300 a week in benefits to the unemployed under a temporary program recently established by President Donald Trump.
The move comes after the jobless lost an additional $600 a week in benefits at the end of last month.
The federal government must sign off on providing the new benefits, and the Democratic governor warned they may be available for only three weeks. He urged Congress to provide longer-term assistance.
Congress and Trump this year approved additional unemployment benefits as part of a coronavirus relief package that recognized many people have been thrown out of work by the pandemic. That increased the maximum amount of aid available in Wisconsin from $370 a week to $970 a week.
Those additional benefits expired at the end of July, even though the pandemic still rages and unemployment remains high.
Democrats who control the House have tried to extend the benefits. Republicans who control the Senate have opposed them, saying they are a disincentive to work because many people make more on unemployment than they do on the job.
Trump issued an executive order to help the unemployed in the meantime. That program provides an extra $300 a week, which would make the maximum Wisconsin benefit $670.
Funds for the new program come from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and are limited. If the agency approves the state’s application, Wisconsinites would be eligible for the additional benefits for three weeks, and possibly longer, according to Evers.
The additional benefits would be retroactive to Aug. 1.
“While I am grateful to be able to provide an additional $300 to eligible claimants, Wisconsin needs Congress and the Trump administration to come to an agreement on a continued, robust response to the pandemic,” Evers said in a statement.
Evers’ Department of Workforce Development applied for the new program on Thursday and Evers announced it had done so on Friday.
The Evers administration has struggled to provide unemployment benefits, forcing many people to wait months to receive assistance.
The administration has blamed the delays on an unprecedented flood of claims and outdated computer systems. Republicans who control the Legislature have said the governor should do more to get on top of the problem.
Contact Patrick Marley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @patrickdmarley.