An Assembly committee approved a bill Tuesday that will tighten penalties for those falsifying a statement or representation to collect any unemployment benefit payment, but those opposed to the bill say it won’t be effective.
The current law states that each false representation or statement of unemployment insurance are considered as separate offenses. This new bill will prosecute multiple offenses as a single crime. Additionally, those convicted face a maximum fine of $10,000 or a maximum sentence of nine months imprisonment, or both.
If the amount of any dishonestly claimed benefits surpasses $10,000, the offender is guilty of a Class G felony.
Those against the bill argue that enforcing criminal penalties will not stop fraud.
“I wish that we could roll up our sleeves and find a difficult and challenging and more thorough way of solving the problems that all our of constituents have. Increasing criminal penalties doesn’t work, it hasn’t worked, and it won’t work in this case,” state Rep. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee, a member of the Assembly Committee on Public Benefit Reform, told The Capital Times.
Those in favor of the bill desire penalties for employment insurance falsification to be similar to other theft penalties. Sen. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, and Rep. Samantha Kerkman, R-Salem, who proposed the bill Tuesday, contend that the bill would impede those who try to cheat the unemployment system.
The punishment also applies to those who gain benefits as a result of faking representation for another person, as well as those who are granted benefits for themselves.