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 District Dialogue

Serving the Greater Northwoods

Oneida - Vilas - Florence - Forest

May 29, 2020

Disfunction at DWD

This week, the Senate Committee on Labor and Regulatory Reform held an informational hearing to better understand the unemployment claim process. Members of the committee heard testimony from DWD Secretary Caleb Frostman, to which several senators asked questions as to what the delay was to process and payout claims. In response to senators' questions, Secretary Frostman argued that the antiquated computer system is to blame. The IT system Secretary Frostman is referring to is called COBOL, and it is said that 70% of global transaction processing systems use this software. To shift the blame to an IT system that is used for roughly 90% of Fortune 500 companies and up to 95% of ATMs is simply unacceptable. Wisconsinites do not need to hear excuses when so many of us are trying to make ends meet during this global crisis. We need leadership and the responsibility to process and payout claims in a timely fashion.  

Also, we learned that the backlog of unpaid claims has grown to more than 700,000, and the department admits it may not be able to catch up until this fall. To me, this is absolutely unacceptable. In an effort to ramp up processing unemployment claims, the department has increased the number of individuals staffing the calling and claims processing center from 50 to 1,300 by July. I, along with my Republican colleagues, will continue to advocate for a better response for the people of the Northwoods and hold this agency accountable for its poor performance. The informational hearing is available to view at WisconsinEye.  

Additionally, on top of the problems of processing unemployment claims, it has come to our attention that the Evers administration is not following the law. In April, the legislature passed the state's COVID-19 Response Package that Governor Evers signed into law included a provision that required unemployment insurance claims specifically related to the coronavirus emergency not be charged the employer’s account. The claims should be charged to a balancing account, which is supported by interest on the unemployment trust fund and solvency tax paid by employers. The purpose of this provision was to mitigate tax increases for employers. Yesterday, legislative leaders Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald sent a letter to Governor Evers alerting him on the department's oversight and to correct the problem the legislature worked diligently to address. With businesses struggling to re-open, the state does not need to increase taxes and make it harder for them to move forward.  

If you or someone you know is having problems filing your unemployment claim, please send an email to Rep.Swearingen@legis.wi.gov with the following information:

  • Full name of claimant (Last name, First Name, Middle Initial*):

  • Phone number:

  • Date of UI Application:

  • Date of Birth & Last Four of SS#*

  • Status of application (trying to file initial claim, in appeal, etc.):

  • Reason for inquiry (can't get through by phone, unanswered questions, etc.):

* Adding the claimant's middle initial and date of birth/last four digits of their social security number helps the UI staff more quickly confirm the identity of the claimant in their system.

Email is preferred, but you can also call my office at 608-237-9134 if you prefer calling instead.

Local Government Aid 

Local Aid grants.PNG

This week, Governor Evers announced the launch of the "Routes to Recovery: Local Governmental Aid Grants" program, a $200 million effort aimed at helping local leaders address some of the most urgent COVID-19 recovery needs. These grants will be allocated to every Wisconsin county, city, village, town, and federally recognized tribe. 

The effort is funded by the $200 million in federal CARES Act dollars and will be administered by the Department of Administration. Of the $200 million, $10 million will be allocated to Wisconsin tribal nations, with the remaining funds being distributed to every Wisconsin county, city, village, and town. 

"Routes to Recovery" grant money for counties, villages, cities, villages, and towns will provide reimbursements for unbudgeted expenditures incurred this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, in the following categories:

  • Emergency operations activities, including those related to public health, emergency services, and public safety response.
  • Purchases of personal protective equipment.
  • Cleaning/sanitizing supplies and services, including those related to elections administration.
  • Temporary isolation housing for infected or at-risk individuals.
  • Testing and contact tracing costs above those covered by existing state programs.
  • FMLA and sick leave for public health and safety employees to take COVID-19 precautions. 
  • Meeting local match requirements for expenses submitted for reimbursements by FEMA, to the extent allowed by federal law.

The determination of a local government's "Routes to Recovery" grant amount is a formula based on the jurisdiction's population, as well as the priority of providing Wisconsin's units of local government no less than $5,000, regardless of population.

According to the Department of Administration, Oneida County is eligible to receive $589,905.00 in grant funding. Additionally, Vilas County is eligible for $354,382.00, Florence County is eligible for $72,752.00 and Forest County is eligible for $149,488.00.

More information regarding "Routes to Recovery" grants, including allocation amounts for counties and municipalities, can be found here

 State Fair Cancelled 


For the first time in 75 years, the Wisconsin State Fair is canceled. The Wisconsin State Fair Park Board Chairman John Yingling said they looked into other options but determined due to the coronavirus pandemic, the fair wasn't going to work. The fair was scheduled for August 6 through August 16. According to the Wisconsin State Fair organizers, the 11-day event attracts more than one million people and is considered the largest event in the state.

Tickets already purchased for admission to the state fair can be used next year or refunded through June 30, 2020. More information on refunds can be found at the Wisconsin State Fair website.

Wisconsin Turns 172


Today marks 172 years since Wisconsin was admitted into the Union on May 29th, 1848. Please join me on wishing our state a Happy Birthday. There is nowhere else I would rather call home!

Additional Information 

For the most up-to-date information on COVID-19, please visit the Department of Health Services website.

For information regarding Wisconsin unemployment benefits, please visit the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development website.

For collective information regarding all Wisconsin State Agencies, please visit: Wisconsin COVID-19 Collective Information.

Public Service Commission: Internet Resources for Wisconsin Residents during Public Health Emergency

Local Health Departments

Oneida County Health Department

Vilas County Health Department

Florence County Health Department

Forest County Health Department

Local Chamber of Commerce Business Listings



Eagle River


St. Germain

Land O’ Lakes

Boulder Junction

Sayner-Star Lake


Three Lakes


Manitowish Waters (School Breakfast and Lunch Requests)

National Resources:

Center for Disease Control

World Health Organization