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Ear to the Ground

Wisconsin Republicans Push for State Access to Bank Accounts of Unemployed

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Posted on May 31, 2013
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The party of limited government is now pushing for legislation that would allow the government to sneak a peek at some people’s private bank accounts. Republican lawmakers in the Wisconsin legislature have proposed a bill that would permit the state to access bank accounts of the unemployed in order to recover any overpayment of jobless benefits. The bill’s co-author, state Rep. Dan Knodl, claims the proposal aims to protect “the workers and lessen the burden on employers who are paying all the bill.”

But state Rep. Christine Sinicki of Milwaukee, the top Democrat on the Assembly Labor Committee, argues that the proposal would negatively impact workers and the middle class instead.

The Huffington Post:

The proposal is part of a broader piece of unemployment legislation that would make the system stricter for workers and less burdensome for businesses.

...Under the legislation, at least once every three months the state’s Department of Workforce Development would send financial institutions information on people who improperly received unemployment insurance. The information on such “unemployment debtors” would include “names, addresses, and social security numbers,” according to the bill text. If the debtor has an account with the bank, then the institution would tell the state the account type, number, and balance.

Maurice Emsellem, policy co-director of the National Employment Law Project, a worker advocacy group, criticized the proposal.

“This troubling proposal raises serious privacy concerns for unemployed workers and exposes the system to other potential abuses that will undermine the basic trust of workers in the state’s UI program,” Emsellem said.

Read more

—Posted by Tracy Bloom.

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