State Unemployment Fund Paying Back Debt


The fund that covers unemployment benefits in Wisconsin repaid hundreds of millions of dollars in in debt last year, but it still owes the federal government more than $850 million.

The recession that started in 2007 hit state unemployment funds hard, and Wisconsin was no exception. While Wisconsin’s fund went into the recession with a positive balance, so many people were out of work for so long that the state had to borrow almost $1.5 billion from the federal government.

A year ago, Wisconsin still owed the federal government more than $1.2 billion of that. But as of the end of December, that total was down to $855 million.

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That cost is borne by employers, who want changes to the fund to tighten up the rules for who’s eligible. Many of those changes have been embraced by the Walker administration’s Department of Workforce Development. Georgia Maxwell is the Department’s Executive Assistant.

“We need to get our fund back to a state of health, so that if future economies do dip or recessions do occur that Wisconsin would be strengthened, so we don’t have to borrow money from the Feds.”

Normally changes to the fund are approved by representatives of business and labor on the state’s Unemployment Insurance Advisory Council. Some in organized labor, however, worry the changes pushed by the business lobby go too far.

Managers of the fund say that unless the state slips into another recession, Wisconsin will pay off its debt to the federal government by sometime in 2015.