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NEWS RELEASE                                           For More Information Contact:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                            Senator Cowles ~ 800.334.1465
December 16, 2014                                    Representative Kerkman ~ 888.529.0061
 
Audit Analyzes Initial Claims Processing for Unemployment Insurance
 
MADISON – Today, the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) released its audit of initial claims processing for unemployment insurance (report 14-15). The Unemployment Insurance program is administered by the Department of Workforce Development (DWD). The Joint Legislative Audit Committee directed LAB to conduct this review due to concerns about difficulties that individuals experienced while attempting to file initial claims.
 
“The December-January spike in initial claims and inquiries really illustrates the challenge DWD faces in claims processing,” said Representative Samantha Kerkman (R-Salem). “It is encouraging to find improvements are already underway.” 
 
Individuals file initial claims through an automated telephone system, online, or by contacting one of DWD’s two call centers. LAB found that almost 1.7 million calls to the call centers, or 60.2 percent of the total, were blocked in fiscal year (FY) 2013-14 because call center staff were busy and the telephone queues were full. From December 2013 through January 2014, when call volumes were high, LAB found that more than 80 percent of calls to the telephone line for filing initial claims were blocked. However, from February 2014 through June 2014, less than 10 percent of such calls were blocked.
 
DWD attributed the high call volume to the December 2013 expiration of federal emergency unemployment benefits and indicated other individuals called to file initial claims after their holiday-related jobs ended or after their work hours were reduced because of harsh winter weather. LAB reports that DWD is taking steps to reduce the likelihood that large numbers of calls will be blocked in December 2014 and January 2015, when many individuals may attempt to file claims. These steps include the implementation of a new computer system in November 2014, hiring of additional limited-term employees, and tasking additional DWD staff to help answer calls. If the steps DWD has planned are insufficient, LAB notes that DWD may need to take additional action and describes options for DWD. LAB recommends DWD report to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee in March 2015 on its experience over the next several months.
 
LAB also found that DWD could improve how it reports the results of its efforts to recoup overpayments. In a March 2014 statutorily required report, DWD reported a 97 percent rate of recoupment for overpayments identified in 2013 resulting from individuals intentionally providing inaccurate information. Because almost all of the amount recouped had been identified in prior years, LAB indicates DWD’s rate of recoupment was 9.5 percent. LAB recommends DWD specify the years in which all recouped overpayments were identified in its statutorily required reports and provide its March 2015 report to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee.
 
"While this audit revealed a period of high volume that resulted in a large number of blocked calls, I feel confident that DWD will continue to progress and will improve their response to high volume periods moving forward," Said Senator Cowles (R-Green Bay).
 
To obtain copies of report 14-15, please visit LAB’s website at http://legis.wisconsin.gov/lab/ or call 608‑266-2818. To report fraud, waste, or mismanagement in state government, call LAB’s hotline at 1‑877‑FRAUD-17.
 
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