Bill: Accounts of jobless checked for overpaymentsA Republican-sponsored proposal speeding its way through the Wisconsin Legislature would allow state officials to check private bank accounts of the unemployed to recover any overpayments of benefits.
By: The Associated Press, Superior Telegram
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Republican-sponsored proposal speeding its way through the Wisconsin Legislature would allow state officials to check private bank accounts of the unemployed to recover any overpayments of benefits.
Financial institutions doing business with the state would also be required to disclose information about accounts held by people who owe money to the unemployment system, under the bill introduced on Friday and scheduled for hearings on Wednesday.
The Wisconsin State Journal reported that under the proposal state officials could sue to freeze bank accounts that hold money improperly paid as a result of administrative errors or computer malfunctions.
"This is to protect the workers and lessen the burden on employers who are paying all the bills," said Rep. Dan Knodl, R-Germantown, a co-author of the bill, which was introduced in the Assembly and the Senate on Friday.
The bill would increase the top unemployment benefit by $7 per week to $370, at a cost of $11 million annually, but other changes would lead to a net overall yearly savings of $8 million, Knodl said.
Wisconsin is one of 31 states that borrowed from the federal government to finance unemployment benefits during the recession. At one point, the state owed the federal government nearly $1.5 billion, Knodl said. By last month, it was down to $476 million, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
"The goal is to get the fund back to solvency," Knodl said.
The proposed changes would hurt workers and the middle class, said Rep. Christine Sinicki of Milwaukee, the ranking Democrat on the Assembly labor committee.
The bill would also keep someone denied benefits after failing to accept a job offer ineligible for benefits until finding a job and earning six times his or her weekly benefit rate. Under current law the requirement is four times the weekly benefit rate.
Also, jobless benefits would no longer be extended beyond their normal expiration date for people who are completing vocational training or basic education courses.
Earlier this month, the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee approved a provision in Gov. Scott Walker's budget that would require the unemployed to apply for four jobs a week, instead of two, to get benefits.
Information from: Wisconsin State Journal, http://www.madison.com/wsj.