People put pressure on lawmakers to fix failed DWD unemployment system

Published: Jun. 4, 2020 at 10:29 PM CDT
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Kim Hill is one of the hundreds of thousands people in Wisconsin who still have not received unemployment benefits.

When she went to make a claim in April, the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) indicated she had a benefit amount reduction or a BAR.

“I had no clue about it,” said Hill. “I never got a letter, I never got a bill. I would have thought that if I would have had something, they would have garnished my wages, they would have taken my taxes, they would have done something.”

“It's not a penalty to be repaid or a debt to be collected, it's an amount of future ineligibility for benefits,” said Emily Savard, program and policy analyst for the DWD.

The DWD says this happens when someone is found to have filed a fraudulent unemployment insurance claim.

Hill filed for unemployment in 2013 but says the DWD found a discrepancy in hours reported more than a year later.

All of the unemployment benefits she would have received now are going to pay down the BAR.

“So for some reason it took them (DWD) 13 months to enter a decision, so that makes me unqualified for unemployment right now,” said Hill.

She’s since applied for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, but was told she has to wait another 30 days for that to process.

“That's three months without income,” said Hill. “I've reached out and so have thousands of other people asking why you can’t waive this so we can get some income during this pandemic,” said Hill.

Others also frustrated with the backlog, are sending letters to their representatives, pleading for a fix to the system.

“Certain things are actually delaying specific applications, so if we can focus on those issues that are creating these catch points and address those, I think we could speed up the process,” said Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette.

Rep. Nygren has been critical of how DWD has handled the backlog of unemployment claims, but says he's willing to work with the governor and the agency to address them.

“If there's specific things that the governor and the Department of Workforce Development says that they need, we'll consider them,” said Nygren.

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