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Republicans in Congress seek audit of Wisconsin unemployment benefits

Lawmakers want to know how much of Wisconsin’s unemployment money has been wasted.

Updated: July 30, 2021 - 11:08pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Wisconsin Republican legislators in Washington, D.C. want to know how much of Wisconsin’s unemployment money has been wasted.

Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, along with Republican Reps. Bryan Steil, Mike Gallagher, and Scott Fitzgerald on Thursday all asked the U.S. Department of Labor for an audit of Wisconsin’s unemployment system.

“We’ve now seen estimates of hundreds of billions of dollars in waste, fraud and abuse related to federal unemployment assistance,” Johnson said. “We can’t keep pushing this down the road.”

Last month, Johnson asked for a similar audit from Gov. Evers. He said the governor never responded.

Audits in a number of other states have found widespread fraud, and plenty of wasted payments.

Congressman Gallagher said people in Wisconsin deserve to know how much money went to scammers.

“Wisconsin taxpayers deserve full transparency as to whether or not their hard-earned tax dollars went to criminals. If the Governor is going to unwisely continue [the enhanced unemployment] program, we should, at a minimum, get a basic understanding of whether these funds have been stolen or abused,” Gallagher added.

Gov. Evers this month vetoed legislation that would have pushed Wisconsin out of the enhanced unemployment benefit program. The governor said he hasn’t seen any data that continuing to pay people an extra $300 a-week is keeping people from returning to work.

“Wisconsinites are rightfully concerned about a taxpayer funded unemployment program marked by instances of fraud. I believe the taxpayers in Wisconsin deserve a full investigation by the DOL Acting Inspector General detailing instances of waste and abuse in our state’s program,” Congressman Fitzgerald said. “The report will provide us answers that Governor Evers has failed to give in the past.”

The Republicans all point to a report from June that said as much as $400 billion, or nearly half of the government’s unemployment assistance, may have been stolen by fraudsters or wasted in overpayments.

“The Governor has consistently failed to be transparent or provide leadership when it comes to the Wisconsin unemployment system. While the Governor may be okay with the status quo, I am not. The reports of potential fraud are troubling and we need to take the necessary actions to protect taxpayers,” Congressman Steil said Thursday.

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