Backlogs with claims

Unemployment claim-filing is up, way up.

Initial Claim-filing data

          2020      2019    ratio
w/e 03/14   5,698   5,587   1.0
w/e 03/21  69,342   5,216   13.3
w/e 03/28 115,679   5,640   20.5
w/e 04/04 103,226   5,173   20.0
w/e 04/11  65,654   4,619   14.2
w/e 04/18  56,038   4,624   12.1
w/e 04/25  48,630   4,570   10.6
w/e 05/02  39,278   4,146   9.5
w/e 05/09  35,134   4,026   8.7


For the week ending May 16th, initial claims filed on Sunday alone (4,135) were more than all the claims filed the equivalent, entire week in 2019 (3,460). So, even as the trend in new claims is slowing, the numbers are still overwhelming.

Furthermore, this data only includes claims for regular unemployment benefits. Claims for PUA benefits are not included here. As of May 9th, the Department reports 72,695 of these PUA claims having been filed (none of these PUA claims have yet been approved, apparently).

My sources within the Department indicate that the Department is weeks behind on processing the documents claimants and employers are submitting by fax or by mail. And, by processing, I mean simply scanning the documents into the Department’s computer system and associating those scanned documents with the correct claimant and employer.

Note: as of mid-April: UCB-23 forms (weekly wage confirmation notices) were being scanned from 4/6/20 with ~16,000 in the queue; UCB-16 forms (separation notices) were being scanned form 3/30/20 with ~54,000 in the queue; ~40 mail bins dating from 4/10/20 had yet to have their contents even opened.

Even at hearing offices, it takes five to ten days from when a letter is faxed or received before the received documents are scanned and entered into the Department’s claim-filing systems.

Note: Accordingly, if you need to update your availability or a phone number for contact purposes, it is best to call the hearing office rather than sending a letter or even providing the requested form.

And, it appears that the Department is ignoring this backlog when deciding cases and scheduling hearings. I had a hearing on Monday, May 11th, in which there was only seven days notice. As a result, the documents I submitted in a letter dated May 5th were NOT available to the administrative law judge. Luckily, those documents were made available through other mechanisms during the hearing. But, if those other mechanisms had failed, the hearing would have had to be postponed until another several weeks had passed.

Claimants have also contacted me about their claims being denied for failing to provide requested documents. They did provide the requested documents on time, but the deadline passed without those documents being uploaded into the Department’s system. So, rather than account for this backlog, the adjudicator/investigator denied the claim because the requested documents were not yet available in the system and dinged the claimants for failing to respond on time.

In these ways, the Department is essentially penalizing claimants for its own backlog.

Given how the numbers of new claims continue to dwarf the claims filed in 2019, these problems will continue. Until the Department acknowledges this backlog, claimants will simply have to jump over these additional hurdles being placed in their path by the Department.

The claim-filing process should NOT be a contest, however.


17 thoughts on “Backlogs with claims

  1. Pingback: Policy choices with unemployment | Wisconsin Unemployment

  2. Your post says “the Department reports 72,695 of these PUA claims having been filed (none of these PUA claims have yet been approved, apparently).”
    It’s been 7 or 8 weeks of unemployment for most of us freelancers and nothing has been approved yet? Do you have any info on when they might start getting money to us? I filed the on first day it was available and sent in my documents that day too, but I haven’t heard anything.

  3. A few points. Adjudication is notified daily of where they are at with processing faxes and mail. Policy is that decisions are not entered until the processing date is passed. Parties are not “dinged” due to the workload. If you have evidence to the contrary, that adj’s supervisor should be notified. If the form was received after the due date, that is a different story, and yes, the decision may be issued. However, most people are so backed up that the decision is not made until after that usually buying them more time.

    Regarding the backlog. It is a tsunami. I am aware that the department had a recession work plan, but clearly this is way beyond that. And impossible to plan for. They are backlogged opening or scanning mail because someone (who—importantly—knows what they are doing!) must process it. I am sure that you are very aware that unemployment is quite complex due to state and federal requirements so even though the department has been and is trying to hire and train, it still takes time before they are even minimally qualified to process claims or make decisions. Many things are being tried, people are being hired, people are working 6 days a week, and staff is doing the best they can to get through each day.

    What I would like to know is, realistically, how do you propose this be handled? We’ve got a Dem governor and Rep House and Senate. In addition to WI laws, UI is a federal program and needs to meet fed requirements. As an employee, I’d love to know what you propose. Instead of bashing us and the work we are doing, offer reasonable and realistic solutions, support us. The ‘digs’ get old. I don’t know where your sources work but I can tell you that my coworkers have a very high level of professionalism and pride in their job.

    • Maybe 3 shifts, seven days a week?
      I understand the tsunami. I appreciate all you guys are trying to get done.
      The system is crippled by years of neglect/upgrades and political agendas that are designed to delay and deny.
      Wisconsin had the first unemployment insurance program in the nation to protects it citizens from hardship. I wish those progressive roots were still in place and that there was more empathy from political leadership to help out and solve problems together.

    • You can start by stopping whining about how difficult you have it and do your job. If you can’t get the job done step aside and let others who can do it. Try a different mind set: you are thankfully employed and are supposed to be helping others who are not. Cut whatever corners you need to in order to provide that help. And your right this is very risky behavior but so what. At worse your supervisor might carry on a bit but you’ll never get fired. Trust me on this I’ve been there.

      • It’s so true we have really dropped the ball and this persons post just infuriated me.I will switch with you tomorrow and you can worry about how to pay Augusts rent and car payment because that’s all I have left.oh and I might want to eat food a day or two out of the week.They need to sign the second stimulus package and put back in to push through all claims and weed out thr fraud later,because eventually they will get caught It’s all on computers and instead I have had a message on my unemployment portal saying we have received you’re PUA application and it has to be manually entered by one if our staff members.And you will be notified by usps or your claim portal when it’s been processed.

    • Dude…Just admit our state is doing a lousy job compared to everyone else. We are one of only TWO states who excluded SSDI recipients from PUA benefits. We may even be the only one now. What does that tell you? 48 states in the US interpreted the CARES ACT to include SSDI recipients, because the language specifically says, “those who are typically ineligible for regular unemployment benefits”…If I were you I’d be looking for a new employer, because anyone who’s had to deal with Workforce Development in the last few months is no longer a fan.

      • You just made my day,the fact he is defending this is hilarious.Are system is broken

    • People are just upset because there are honest people like me who have to pay rent and car payments and maybe even eat food and we have every right to be upset.We are one of three states not paying PUA benefits yet I don’t know one person who has received there’s.I filed right away for pua benefits and faxed my w2s got my confirmation that it was sent and all that’s happened is when I login it says we have received your pua application and must be manually entered into our system by a staff member you will be notified by usps or your claim portal when your application is processed,when it used to say it takes up to 30 days to receive your application. People are losing there houses,apartments and vehicles and people are going hungry.So yeah I think we have a right to be angry. I Will switch places with you today and get a paycheck every week and you can worry about being homeless and hungry.

    • You could just process all the claims and deal with the fraud after,it’s not like they won’t get caught.So basically 95 percent of us honest people who lost there jobs but don’t qualify for regular unemployment but do for PUA unemployment have to suffer to make sure that no body gets one by you,and is this your personal money that your sending out or wait is it the Federal governments money.Just do your job.

  4. I also understand the tsunami. The problem lies, not in the employees, thanks you for all you do, but the State. Other states have already started cutting checks for PUA, since the first of May, we are one of the last, yet we are also one of the highest in state tax. I question why, So are they sitting on this money, collecting interest, it’s going to take the federal government to say, this needs to be done now, or we’ll figure out to get it done, we allotted this money to you, and where is it? Many Wisconsin people have gone without a paycheck since March. It’s very sad.

  5. And one more thing I need to add, many don’t realize that every employer pays into unemployment, it’s not a government program, so who’s been dipping into the pot for so many years?

  6. Pingback: Delays are a choice | Wisconsin Unemployment

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