Empower Wisconsin | May 29, 2020
MADISON — Sandy Wankowski says she is on her 10th week of waiting for the unemployment benefits she’s applied for. She can’t get through to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.
Wankowski’s Facebook comment is all too familiar among private sector workers.
Not so much in government work.
As hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites were losing their jobs in the wake of the pandemic and Gov. Tony Evers’ statewide lockdown, state government employees were enjoying solid job security, according to state records obtained by Orville Seymer, of CRG Network.
One state worker — that’s one — lost her job between March 1 and April 28, during the brunt of the mass private sector layoffs.
“One employee, Sandra Leslie, was laid off effective April, 18, 2020, consistent with approved layoff plans and not related to COVID-19,” wrote Anfin Jaw, legal counsel for the state Department of Administration. “No other employees were furloughed, laid off, or had hours cut during the referenced time frame.”
That’s one out of about 75,000 full-time-equivalent state employees.
Empower Wisconsin on Thursday asked the DOA if any other state workers had been furloughed, laid off or had experienced a reduction in hours. A spokeswoman said she would try to provide answers. She had not done so as of publication.
Meanwhile, as Wisconsin Spotlight first reported, the Evers administration recently tried to sneak through an emergency rule that allows some state employees to be paid for not working.
Earlier this month, the state Department of Administration Division of Personnel Management notified the Legislature that Gov. Tony Evers had approved the emergency rule for limited term employees (LTEs). It creates a new limited exception that allows state agencies to approve LTEs to stay at home without working and without loss of pay during the pandemic.
“We have people begging to go back to work, and employers begging people to work for them,” said state Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) in a statement. “Governor Evers just released an emergency rule paying people for literally doing nothing. This isn’t work from home. That would be one thing, and understandable. This is don’t work from home, don’t go to your job site, don’t worry – we’ll still pay you.”
On Thursday, the Evers administration released a summary of state agency plans to trim a total of $70 million out of the state’s operating budget. Mainly, the plans call for lapsing money that would have gone to cover state programs, according to the summary, released to Wispolitics.com.
The impacts on government operations appear to be minimal, and very light on job cuts, furloughs and reduced employee hours. The Department of Public Instruction, for instance, would let lapse 2.74 million related to pupil assessments in the spring semester. That’s not a real cut. The assessments were never conducted because Evers closed Wisconsin’s schools during the pandemic.
It also must be noted that $70 million is a drop in the bucket compared to the state’s $84 billion biennial budget.