Benefit restrictions bill: Wisconsin Senate set to send to governor

The Republican-controlled Wisconsin Senate was poised Tuesday to approve a package of Republican-authored bills designed to force more people into the workforce by tightening eligibility for unemployment benefits and Medicaid coverage.

The Assembly passed the bills last week. Approval by the Senate would send them to Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, who almost certainly will veto them. Opponents contend the bills would only make life harder for people trying to find work.

One proposal would reinstate a three-month limit on food stamp eligibility if recipients don't comply with work requirements and drug testing. Evers' administration dropped the deadline due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Another bill would tie the amount of time someone can collect unemployment benefits to the unemployment rate. Right now, someone who is unemployed can collect benefits for up to 26 weeks. Under the bill, the number of weeks someone is eligible would shrink as the unemployment rate drops, from 26 weeks to a minimum of 14 weeks.

Other measures would force the administration to enact a state law that requires some people to take drug tests to qualify for unemployment benefits; prohibit government officials from declaring a business essential or nonessential; prohibit automatic renewal of Medicaid benefits and instead require state health officials to determine a person's eligibility every six months; require the state Department of Workforce Development to expand its call center hours; and require the DWD to randomly audit at least half of all work search actions that unemployment benefit recipients report.

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