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Contents

  • Unemployment Woes
  • Governor's Budget Cuts
  • Brown County Guidelines

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Unemployment Woes Continue

I’ve heard a lot from Democrats about how Republican reforms to the Unemployment Insurance program are to blame for the long delays in making payments. Here is a quote, reported by Wispolitics, from the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) spokesperson:

“None of the changes to the [UI] program over the previous eight years has significantly slowed down the system.”

Instead of blaming computers or Republicans, Governor Tony Evers needs to start leading. Call centers should be open 7 days a week. Gov. Walker opened the call center on Christmas in 2014. Gov. Evers appears to have closed the call center on Memorial Day this week.

Additional state employees should be transferred to the UI program. A recent news story reported that DWD has turned down offers from state employees to transfer to the UI program to help process claims.

In 2019, DWD bragged about its IT systems saying the system is “effective and efficient.” Gov. Evers requested $0 for IT upgrades in the state budget. Congress provided $18.9M for administrative, including IT, improvements in April. Suddenly the computer system is to blame for UI problems.

Secretary Frostman doubled down on his effort to blame the slow processing of UI claims on an IT system run on COBOL. For context, about 90% of Fortune 500 companies and up to 95% of ATMs use COBOL code. Micro Focus, an IT company that uses COBOL, said that 70% of global transaction processing systems use COBOL. 

To put this in perspective, any time someone books a flight, pays the mortgage, or buys something online they are likely interacting with COBOL. Ironically, US Bank, which the state uses to make UI payments, likely uses the same IT system that Gov. Evers is trying to blame the UI backlog on. Clearly, this is yet another excuse to distract from a failure of leadership

Wisconsin was one of the last states to provide the federal $600 weekly benefit payments. While other states were working around the clock to make these payments, Gov. Evers was busy blaming others for problems at DWD. Worse yet, Wisconsin still isn’t making payments to self-employed workers.

Between April 26 and May 16, over 1 million calls to DWD have been blocked. In those 3 weeks, the average speed to answer and the avg. days between filing a claim and receiving benefits have increased. The flexibilities Gov. Evers requested from the Legislature were signed into law April 15.

Enough excuses! These actions should have been taken weeks ago. Instead Gov. Evers has opted to blame others for his failure of leadership.

 

 

   
 
Governor Evers COVID-19 Budget Cuts

After claiming that he would cut state operations spending by 5%, the plan released by Governor Tony Evers yesterday shows actual cuts to operations spending of less than 2.5%. Making matters worse, nearly two-thirds of the cuts are being shouldered by the UW System. While Gov. Evers’ initial announcement was promising, this additional information leaves more questions than answers.

The cuts announced by Gov. Evers raise questions about his priorities. While he has exempted the budgets of 25 state agencies, including his political buddies, Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes, State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, and Secretary of State Doug La Follette, Gov. Evers has cut appropriations for farmer mental health, substance abuse and drunk driving prevention and treatment, and homelessness prevention.

Notably, Gov. Evers’ plan cuts the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection by over $1 million. The appropriations that Gov. Evers cut fund the Farm to School program and may be used for farmer mental health programs, including suicide prevention. Yet Lt. Gov. Barnes' budget is safe from cuts.

Recent reports show an increase in domestic violence and drug overdoses during the pandemic. Despite this, Gov. Evers is cutting treatment and diversion programs, drug testing and treatment, and Milwaukee child welfare services. Yet Lt. Gov. Barnes' budget is safe from cuts.

At a time that Governor Evers has a Task Force on Climate and has set a 100% renewable energy goal, his cuts include over $1.3 million intended to pay for renewable energy in the state. Yet Lt. Gov. Barnes' budget is safe from cuts.

While the state is facing record high rates of unemployment, Gov. Evers is cutting popular worker training programs at the Department of Workforce Development. Yet Lt. Gov. Barnes' budget is safe from cuts.  

After criticizing Republicans on homelessness funding, Gov. Evers is cutting the operations of the Department of Administration housing division, which deals with homelessness and the homelessness council. Yet Lt. Gov. Barnes' budget is safe from cuts.

One clear winner in Governor Evers’ cuts is Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes. Gov. Evers has exempted the Lt. Governor’s office from any reduction. The taxpayers of Wisconsin deserve better.

   
 
Brown County Reopening Guidelines

This week, Brown County released a new document to help guide businesses to reopen safely. As more businesses around the state open up, I encourage you to continue to adhere to CDC guidelines on social distancing and other measures.

For more information on the Brown County Reopening Guidelines, please click here.

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