by State Representative Sandy Pasch
Recent headlines proclaim that jobless rates in the United States are at a four-year low, and I think many of us are pleased with the direction that President Obama has taken to turn around our economy.
Wisconsin, however, continues to seriously lag the nation and our neighboring states in job creation. And in parts of Milwaukee, jobless rates are near thirty percent. Our communities are hurting, and this must change. I know that the people of Milwaukee and across our state want their elected officials to work on creating family-supporting jobs and to promote economic stability for our communities.
The best way to do this is by taking a balanced approach, one that provides targeted relief for low-to-middle income Wisconsinites, while also making vital investments in services – such as health care, transportation, and education – to help our communities. I am doing just that by working on legislation that is aimed at creating family-supporting jobs and investing in worker-training programs.
The first piece of legislation, Assembly Bill 49, would strengthen what is known as the WISCAP Skills Enhancement Program. This program works to increase the incomes of low-wage workers by providing opportunities to obtain additional skills necessary for family-supporting jobs. It emphasizes short-term, demand-driven, job-focused training, while also helping with child care and transportation costs.
My legislation would increase funding for this proven successful program and enable 700 more individuals to obtain better paying jobs over the next five years.
Already, the 153 graduates of this program who have acquired new jobs have an increase in annual income of $8,454 and have reported a fivefold increase in access to employer-sponsored health care benefits. I am also the author of Assembly Bill 50, a proposal that creates a work-sharing program that would lessen the impact of a business downturn on workers, employers, and the government.
Under a voluntary work-share program, the employer reduces the hours of work for all employees, instead of laying-off a portion of the workforce. Workers then receive partial unemployment benefits to compensate for the lost hours of work.
It also allows employers to ramp up their production when business improves, thereby helping the economy recover more quickly. I am happy to report the Assembly recently passed a slightly different version of my bill on a wide bi-partisan vote.
The third jobs bill I am working on would establish a Self-Employment Assistance program. This program allows states to use their unemployment insurance systems to help laid-off workers start new businesses and waive work-search requirements for those who are working full time to establish their own small businesses. In addition, workers also are provided a weekly allowance in the same amount and duration as regular unemployment benefits.
While these bills would assist all Wisconsinites, I am especially committed to the people of Milwaukee. Governor Walker’s proposed budget neglects our city and harms the many services necessary to enable job growth, such as health care, education, and public transportation.