DWD Secretary discusses unemployment claims, initiative to help workers in hard-hit industries

Published: Jul. 1, 2020 at 8:09 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) -The push is on to get Wisconsinites back to work, even though the way businesses operate and the kind of industries that thrive are changing.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation has released a report highlighting the need for new training for many people still out of work, and the Secretary of Workforce Development is telling us what’s being done to help them.

Despite the challenges of busy signals and being booted off websites, DWD Secretary Caleb Frostman wants people to continue trying to file for unemployment assistance.

With new call centers, he tells Action 2 News went from handling 2,000 calls a day to 12,000 on Tuesday, and is also trying to improve its antiquated online capabilities.

“Even if you’re feeling frustrated, keep filing those weekly claims online,” says Frostman. “We’re very, very interested in modernizing our whole mainframe system, which is like 50 years old and it’s been a real challenge to us to onboard these new programs that come from the feds.”

Between mid-March and late June, the DWD received more than 700,000 applications for unemployment insurance, and paid out more than $2.2 billion in jobless benefits.

Wisconsinites can receive up to $370 a week on regular unemployment insurance.

The additional $600 Federal Cares Act unemployment bonus runs out at the end of July, but Frostman says he wants to see it extended.

“If 12% of Wisconsin’s workforce is asked to pay their bills and buy groceries and pay for rent on $370 a week versus $970 a week, it’s going to be really challenging for a lot of people,” said Frostman.

A new report from the WEDC says industries like tourism, retail and some manufacturing are among the hardest hit.

Frostman says his agency is focusing on helping workers in those industries find new careers in a new kind of economy.

It’s one that will rely heavily on technology, both in helping people work remotely, and conduct business online.

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