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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

 12:56 PM 

Senate approves extension of unemployment benefits

The Senate today approved using federal funds to extend unemployment insurance by 13 weeks after signing off on an amendment to repeal a budget provision requiring those who lose their jobs to wait one week before beginning to collect the benefits.

The bill was approved 30-3 on final passage. GOP Sens. Glenn Grothman of West Bend, Mary Lazich of New Berlin and Rich Zipperer of Pewaukee voted no.

The Joint Finance Committee inserted a provision in the budget requiring laid off workers to wait one week after their application for the benefits is approved before they can begin to collect unemployment checks. Backers said most of the rest of the country has a similar waiting period and the move would save the unemployment trust fund an estimated $41 million to $56 million annually. The fund is now some $1.5 billion in debt.

The extension approved today would not draw on the fund to cover the benefits.

Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said the one-week delay made sense to help preserve the trust fund.

“This is something that should have been done a long time ago and we wouldn’t be so far in arrears,” Fitzgerald said.

But Dems questioned how the move would save money considering it only delays the beginning of the benefits by one week, but doesn’t shorten the time they can be claimed.

"When you go to buy groceries, they cost just as much the first week you’re laid off as they do the second week,” Cullen said. “You’ve got to buy the groceries and provide for your family during that first week.”

UPDATE: Sen. Bob Jauch missed the original roll call, but his support was added by unanimous consent. The vote total has been updated to reflect that.

UPDATE: 1:34 p.m. -- Freshman GOP Sen. Pam Galloway originally voted against the extension. But she asked to change her vote to a yes.

UPDATE: 2:29 p.m. -- Lazich originally voted for the bill, but she just switched her vote to a no. That puts final passage back to 30-3.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This post has been updated to CORRECT that the elimination of the one-week waiting period was approved via voice vote.


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