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State clears regular unemployment backlog; thousands of claims remain in adjudication

The coronavirus pandemic has caused unemployment to skyrocket.
The coronavirus pandemic has caused unemployment to skyrocket.(WRDW)
Published: Dec. 30, 2020 at 7:25 AM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WBAY) - The state says it has cleared its backlog of regular unemployment insurance claims. However, thousands of claims remain under adjudication.

The Department of Workforce Development says it handled more than four years’ worth of unemployment claims in nine months during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Since the start of the pandemic, our top priority at DWD has been ensuring that all eligible unemployment claims in Wisconsin are paid as quickly as possible,” said Department of Workforce Development Secretary-designee Amy Pechacek. “Today, I am proud to say we have reached our goal to clear the backlog of claims. The tireless work of DWD staff has made it possible for UI to resume its seasonal level of timeliness in January. I look forward to implementing further enhancements to our UI processes to continue to improve services to Wisconsinites who are out of work through no fault of their own.”

Since March 15, DWD has processed nearly 8.8 million weekly claims. That’s compared to 7.2 million claims processed from 2016-2019.

Under “normal” conditions, claims are resolved in about 21 days. The remaining eligibility claims have been assigned to adjudication.

The state describes that process as: “Adjudication is the investigation and resolution of eligibility issues raised on unemployment insurance claims. Eligibility issues arise from several places including the initial or weekly claim, employer contact, claimant contact, and tips from the public. Adjudication is a manual process that requires interested parties be provided due notice to respond to the eligibility issue. Issues are not relevant for adjudication if, for example, they are being held for identity verification.”

DWD has hired 1,300 people to work on UI claims in the past nine months.

Gov. Tony Evers’ administration has been criticized for their handling of unemployment as the state ordered some businesses to close during the early months of the pandemic.

A recent DWD audit found that it took DWD about five weeks to pay 25 percent of regular unemployment claims, according to a report from our Madison partner station NBC 15.

For claims under adjudication, it took more than 31 days to resolve issues for people who quit jobs, and more than 75 days to resolve cases in which people were fired.

NBC 15 reported earlier this month that there were about 51,000 cases in adjudication.

An audit released in September showed 93 percent of telephone calls to the state’s Unemployment Insurance call centers were blocked or received busy signals between March 15 and June 30.

Then DWD secretary Caleb Frostman resigned as the state struggled to distribute benefits.

Gov. Evers blamed “antiquated technology.”

“It is clear that our unemployment system has faced historic levels of claims these past few months, hindered in part by antiquated technology we inherited, and processes designed by Republicans to make it harder for folks to get these benefits,” said Gov. Evers.

Wisconsin Unemployment Info: https://dwd.wisconsin.gov/ui/

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