State Rep. Calvin Callahan (R-Tomahawk) introduced a new package of legislation known as the Stronger Workforce Initiative on Jan. 18, along with several of his legislative Republican colleagues.

These proposals aim to assist with the ongoing employment crisis throughout the state.

“The 35th Assembly District, like much of Wisconsin, is filled with small businesses holding up ‘help wanted’ signs in their windows,” said Callahan. “We have so many vacant jobs here at home and throughout the state, but there is also a large number of able-bodied workers available. In order to fill these jobs, we have to remove the government-created barriers between them.”

The package includes legislation that promotes re-employment, protects the safety net programs, eliminates fraud and more. The specific legislation introduced by Callahan as part of this proposal, LRB-5788/LRB-4262, prohibits able-bodied individuals without children from turning down job opportunities for the sole reason of continuing eligibility of Medical Assistance.

“Medical Assistance, like all government welfare programs, was never intended to be a permanent health care source for able-bodied individuals without children who can work full-time jobs,” continued Callahan. “I’ve heard stories of individuals turning down job offers and raises just so they can stay on Medical Assistance, even though the employer would be offering another health plan.”

In a rebuttal to the introduced legislation, Sen. Melissa Agard (D-Madison) said that the bills demonize low-income workers and those who have been out of work due to no fault of their own during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Government works best when it is working for the betterment of its people; when it is working to uplift everyone. The bills introduced by my colleagues are doing the opposite,” she said in a statement.

“These Republican bills do nothing to help increase access to the workforce or help more people. They will result in turning away folks who need help. Rather than demonizing those who need help, let’s find ways to better support our neighbors through properly funded programs.”

Asgard added that what legislators should be focusing on is raising the minimum wage, providing paid leave access to all Wisconsinites, reducing the cost of childcare, expanding Medicaid, and other proactive policy solutions that play a role in who is entering and staying in the workforce.

“It is past time we as a state invest in our workers. Let’s work together to create pragmatic solutions to help our workers,” she said.