Unemployment filings continue, Department of Workforce Development adds positions

By: Emily Davies, WSAW

The Department of Workforce Development is reporting that more than 36,000 preliminary unemployment applications were filed this past Sunday and Monday alone.

Several people in north central Wisconsin have written to NewsChannel 7, saying they are having issues like trying for weeks to file or that they have not seen their benefits come in weeks after filing.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Wisconsin are applying after being laid off, furloughed, left without work because their employer closed, quarantined, or getting reduced hours. Others cannot even be put on hold as the call lines at DWD are bogged down.

"Just to underscore how significant the need is for these benefits," Gov. Tony Evers said during the press briefing Monday, "last Thursday, DWD received 400,000 calls between 6-10 a.m. At one time they were averaging 160 calls per second."

DWD is working to increase staff levels to help with the more than 6,000% increase in calls. Last week, it temporarily added 35 staff members for a total of 92 call center workers. It is also currently training 40 staff members from other DWD divisions to assist the call center and it is hoping to hire an additional 80 workers.

"We need the legislature to take action and get rid of the one-week waiting period before folks can start receiving benefits," Gov. Evers said.

He has asked the legislature to do that and the White House in its CARES Act is recommending the waiver too.

Rep. Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point) told NewsChannel 7 she supports the waiver.

“People who are unemployed deserve a quick turnaround as they file unemployment insurance claims. I support Governor Evers’ legislation and request for more positions at the Department of Workforce Development to respond to the urgent need, as they are receiving as many as 160 calls per second. I also strongly support eliminating the one-week waiting period and will advocate for both of these policies in the legislature. The people of Wisconsin are counting on us to put our politics aside and lead, and I’m hopeful the legislature will address these issues as soon as possible.” – Rep. Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point

Speaker Robin Vos' communications director, Kit Beyer said, "The speaker’s office continues to have daily discussions with the governor’s office and legislative minority leaders. Assembly leaders recently announced there will be a floor session soon in response to the coronavirus pandemic and the CARES Act. Leaders are currently exploring the possible ways to convene a session without adversely impacting the most at-risk populations within our membership and support staff."

DWD responded to questions NewsChannel 7 had about filings that did not get in in time for the broadcast version of this story.

When asked about why people are not receiving their benefits after applying weeks ago (beyond the one-week waiting period), NewsChannel 7 was told "They should access their information at https://dwd.wisconsin.gov/uiben/information/." That is where you can view and manage your claim.

When asked about why some people are asked to call the IT Center to get a username and password and some are not, DWD responded, "Many people had a username and password in the past, but are entering incorrect usernames or passwords- that is why they need to contact the IT Support. People are also simply frustrated regarding the wait times: to talk to a claims specialist if they are told to call, to receive benefits due to the waiting week, to talk to someone to resolve an eligibility issue. Many people also have questions about the CARES Act. DWD is currently waiting on guidance from DOL about the CARES Act."

As for when people can expect to get their filings through the process, DWD said, "This depends on the specifics of an individual's claim. It can certainly vary, but If there are no eligibility issues, benefits could be paid within a few days of a weekly claim being filed."