Delays are a choice

Wisconsin Watch reviews the stories of several claimants facing incredibly long delays in the processing of their unemployment claims.

Some perspective, however, is needed on what these stories reveal.

First, the story reports that around 150,000 claimants are still waiting for their claims to be decided. The May 2020 jobs report indicates that the workforce in Wisconsin is just under 3.1 million. Some simple math reveals that the number of workers with outstanding claims waiting and waiting is roughly 5% of the state’s entire workforce.

So, just like disabled workers, one out of every twenty people who work are WAITING on the Department to decide their cases after now nearly four months.

Anyone with eyes in their head should see with these numbers that the Department has a massive problem on its hands. A thousand more workers processing unemployment claims is not going to fix a problem that is systemic to the claims-filing process itself.

Note: the claims processing backlog continues. On June 9th, the Department was just processing appeals in unemployment cases that had been filed on May 9th. At present, the delay at the hearing office in processing documents submitted for a hearing is down from 14+ days to 10-12 days. In a best case scenario, I would not expect a hearing on an appeal filed today to occur until late September. Appeals I filed in early to mid- May have yet to be scheduled for a hearing.

Which gets to the second problem revealed in this story: why is the Department taking so damn long to process claims. Here is the official explanation:

Frostman, the workforce secretary, said his agency needed time to interpret federal guidance for the new program. By April 27, for example, state agencies nationwide asked enough questions to prompt the labor department to update its guidance. Another obstacle Frostman cited: DWD’s 1970s-era technology, a vulnerability that lawmakers and regulators have understood for decades but never bothered to fix.

Wisconsin Watch reports how a few other states have had claim-filing problems (though the actual delays in those other states are not like those in Wisconsin). Yes, every state has had processing problems given the number of claims being filed. After all, the number of claims at issue now is at Great Depression levels.

What is NOT mentioned in the article is how those states have quickly adapted and changed their claim-filing processes to streamline their decision-making and reduce the number of issues that has to be decided with each claim.

Michigan paid out $1 million in PUA benefits as of the week ending April 25th. APRIL 25th! New Jersey, which made initial headlines about its ancient COBOL system and was experiencing similar delays with its claims, now reports more than 1 million claimants paid out of 1.2 million workers with unemployment claims. New Jersey even offers explicit advice about how to answer weekly certification questions that is still lacking in Wisconsin.

Note: Wisconsin continues to report confusing numbers about weeks being claimed rather than the number of claimants being paid or denied benefits. The small print in these reports, however, reveals “approximately 141,110 unique claimants with around 232,576 issues requiring adjudication” that are still waiting on an initial decision.

And, states as varied as Ohio and Massachusetts were already making significant alterations to their claim-filing requirements as of March 17th. By March 24th, information on what states were doing in response to the pandemic was already available and known.

There was no federal guidance available then. Yet, somehow these states were acting in response to the major unemployment crisis they were facing. Certainly, no state has been perfect. But, at least these states and others were responding to the crisis.

In Wisconsin, the story instead has been a multiplication of issues for disqualifying claimants, like SSDI, job registration, and BAR barriers.

There is a timidity to the Department’s decision-making that is unique to Wisconsin at the moment. For whatever reason, the Department is attempting to maintain the status quo in the face of this pandemic. More bodies on the front lines, however, do not help when the nuclear bomb has gone off.

29 thoughts on “Delays are a choice

  1. I’m devastated! I’ve been waiting 10 weeks for unemployment benefits, I have a total of 9 weeks pending. I have only received 1 letter from the DWD since I filed my initial claim, to which I responded promptly via certified mail. It’s extremely difficult and can take several days of attempting to speak to someone at DWD. The 3 times I was able to get through I had to wait hours on hold. The first time I got a person working from home in Florida, I knew due to children and pets interfering in the background. The woman also stated she was in Florida and could not answer any questions and could not move my case forward. She encouraged me to ” keep filing” so I did. A few weeks later, I call, wait several hours again, just to be told the same thing, but this person scheduled me for a call back. The call back was honored, but again there’s no movement on the adjudication of my case. This was and is heartbreaking, not to mention if I’m denied then an appeal will take several weeks. The DWD is supposed to make a decision within a certain time frame. That time frame has been more than exhausted in my case. I’m a single parent without a source of income for the past 3 months so my fear and anxiety is at an all-time high. I am in grave danger of losing my home, vehicle, dignity and confidence. Please help!

    • I have been waiting on benefits to pay since 4/19/2020. It is impossible to speak with anyone that can provide useful information regarding any claims. It’s a complete failure for the people who need it the most. There seems to be no sense of urgency from anyone in a position to help.

      I encourage you to reach out to the representatives of your district. I have been sending messages to anyone and everyone, hoping the problem will be addressed. The other day I received a message from Rep. Jason Fields who represents the 11th District, stating he would try to help expedite my claims. This at least shows some sort of progress, but it’s a long way from being under control.

      You can find your reps at the website below. Send a message every day.

  2. The system does not work. It was created during the depression with the idea of promptly delivering benefits to the unemployed in order to mitigate damages due to a poorly performing economy. It is now a job works program for government workers who are not held to any standard of performance. I was a claim manager for an insurance company and we were required to promptly render a decision regarding a claim and promptly make payment. These government workers are not held to such a standard. As a result, we have to deal with this system which is not unemployment insurance but a job works program for government employees not able to handle a real work environment that exist in a competitive private sector job.

  3. Filed for PUA as a self-employed person on April 21 … they are manually uploading applications submitted through the DWD website, April applications were uploaded the last week of June. Stats are not accurate and the problem I is much worse than reported. Need some investigative reporting and the truth.

    • Agreed. There is more going on here than just a backlog, due to “outdated tech”. I believe the funds have been illegally re-directed.

      I also reached out to most local “News” organizations here in Appleton and of course, no one has investigated, nor replied back. I say we abolish the “News” and stop paying the “journalists” wages. It’s all lies and corporate agenda regurgitation anyways.


      • I also think there is something else going on with UI benefits. After getting sick and trying to work in April, I called my doctor and was told to go home and quarantine for 14 days. I also had my children with me at this time and their schools were closed during my 14 day quarantine. I was able to return to work May 16 I think it was. When I returned to work I was pulled into the bosses office and was told “pack my sh** and leave. When will you have all of your things out because technically your not an employee here anymore.” I recorded this meeting on my phone. I finally received a call from an adjudicator in September. Played the recording for her and waited for the decision to be mailed to me. Almost two weeks later the decision she made was that I quit my job and that no benefits were payable.
        WTF??? I did nothing of the sort. I have the recording to prove it, and the Adjudicator heard it, I was told to leave and that I was no longer an employee. Why in the hell would she say I quit my job???
        The same day the decision was posted on their website I filed for an appeal on their decision. Its been over 3 weeks and they still havent given me a date for my appeal.
        It feels like there are way too many red flags with my story and others that I have heard for it to just be about outdated equipment.

  4. Both me and my roommate are going on week 11 of waiting. We both had jobs paying us more then unemployment and the additional $600. We are both entitled to this, as our ex employers both paid into the UI fund. This is a disgrace.

  5. Pingback: Denying UI to the disabled makes no sense | Wisconsin Unemployment

  6. I haven’t been waiting as nearly as long as some of you-but, I recently got fired ‘illegally’ from my job. As in, I was fired because of discrimination because of a disability. I’ve only filed for 3 weeks so far, but am owed more than that. I’ve tried calling to somehow change my answer on my initial claim. They can’t do it. Apparently, once it hits the adjudication process, it has to stay there until they’ve reached a decision. I think there should be a way to change this, especially if you find out you were laid off and not actually fired. I work for the federal government and am part of the union. They’re the only ones helping me or doing what they can at this point. Landlords are threatening evictions left and right, bills need to be paid, you need money to get gas for your car and if you’re not being paid, it’s virtually impossible to do any of that.

    I smell something fishy….

  7. 12 Weeks 5 Days later waiting on adjudication and hearing absolutely nothing back, savings are about done, now I’ll also (should have when it began) apply for food benefits and health. New job starting up next week. 12 weeks means the state is already in the hole $11,640 and that’s if they did their job today and only for me not the countless others they have not taken care of.

  8. Have been waiting for 12 weeks for a decision on my regular unemployment claim. If I get denied, then I can file PUA, then wait another 12 or more weeks for a decision on that. How would our elected officials like to go for 6 months with no income and still have a place to live and food to eat. They get paid, no matter what they do or how bad the Country is. They should be forced to do without any income and see how they like it. Maybe then changes would occur. My Daughter is also in the same situation with her PUA benefits and she is a high risk person. Where is the system when we need it? The system is failing us.

  9. i do not understand why 33 other states have the extra unemployment coming in and wisconsin still hasnt applied for it yet. my household is on a slow roll downward and the government dont give 2 shits. i go to work every day and have not received a paycheck since march because they are taking all my pay for insurance during the pandemic. all the hours i work i report to unemployment so they can decrease that check and im lucky to receive 100 dallar check a week. my household is not surviving. you took the 600 away and that was feeding my family and helping to pay my bills. how would you like to have to live like this.

  10. I have been calling everyday to unemployment all they say is you have to wait, since May 12th.
    My claim has been in under review by adjudication for about 6 weeks. Supposed to take 3 weeks to contact you or make he decision. The claim is under review due to a miss filing from my previous job. So now I am being punished for their mistake!
    Contacted my state representative who said they would help get it looked at. Nothing has happened from that either.
    4 months of not getting unemployment is ridiculous. Been applying for other jobs but now back in school trying to get my degree. I have no money to pay for housing.
    How can they continue to work like this? Most of us would have been fired if we missed a dead line by this much time.

  11. I have been working for my employer for 28 years. My unemployment benefits are being held up because they said I quit my job back in April 4 2020. I was laid – off for 2 weeks in early August. I never quit my job and I am still working for my same employer. How can this get so messed up?

  12. Pingback: Delays, part 1 | Wisconsin Unemployment

  13. Pingback: Unemployment delays, part 3 | Wisconsin Unemployment

  14. The state of Wisconsin has sunk to a new low. After being terminated March 20th, 2020 I finally after months of calls and waiting I started to recieve unemployement payments. In the meantime my former employer filed an appeal. I texted him and asked why he is appealling? He replied its just for business reasons. Did not think anything about it. I HAVE A LETTER OF TERMINATION IN MY HAND THAT ALSO WENT TO APPEALS JUDGE. Just recieved the judgement in mail saying ” I Quit” and have to pay all back. WTF. I am not a fighter but now I am.

  15. The beginning of august my employer fired me fore to many right up which 2 were family emergencies followed procedures for them and had system errors all the time and got those marked toward me. I tried to appeal the ternimination never responded back then never paid me for the last week i worked only paid the two paid holiday but took half the hours off so only got paid for one day. So applied for unemployment by the end of the month they had the paperwork been waiting for two months everytime i call i get different responses. Friday october 9th called told that the had the paperwork for the last month could not find which ajudication it went to because when i first filled within two weeks it was sahing ajusication review and the rep told me there were sending it up and i would get a call the 12th sogot the call got that the rep on friday was from a third party did not know what they were talking about and that my was not assigned to no judication yet and it would take several weeks yets. I am a patient person but sick of getting scored over because of being just a number.

  16. I was getting compensation. Then it stopped and I am being investigated with the claim that I am getting SS disability benefits which I am not. I have a letter from SS showing that but they do not allow evidence I guess. But I can not buy medicine for my heart condition, diabetes nor pay my bills. So, I blame Wisconsin for my death if they do not resolve it soon. Not only that, I will urge my family to sue the state. Looking for a job but there seems to be nothing.

  17. I seen your email on an unemployment claim that took forever! My husband filed for unemployment in Missouri they gave him the runaround from April to June to say that he needed to accept the Wisconsin funds first! My husband applied for those June 16th! Every week it’s a different thing!
    There was a determination August 14 saying he was eligible and would have to agree to the terms since he made 8 times more the benefit amount! It’s now the middle of October and he still has nothing!!! I’m about to call up there and have a little more rudeness to get this done bc this is not them without a job! Missouri has just as many unemployment claims as Wisconsin and gets their stuff done immediately esp during this pandemic! April-October my husband been fighting to get this with no damn determination! Something needs done!
    I need to be given an email or something to report, or a phone number! 6 months our family been filing for the right of unemployment especially during a pandemic but people just playing mind games!

    My husband is to nice and I’m about to call and have a not so nice chat bc being nice continues to keep you waiting more months and weeks and days! We have a 5 year old and a 6 year old my daughters birthday is next month, my birthday is 13 days after Christmas is 20 days after and we have received nothing!! I am sending this to every person I see that’s provided an email address per news statement to get something Done

    This is sad and sick! If it were these people without jobs they’d be collecting money a week later! My husband has only ever claimed unemployment one time in 36 years and has worked since he was 14!!!! I am posting and reaching out to every news center in Wisconsin and where I can comment this is absolutely ridiculous and I’m livid at this point!

    • On April 4th 2020 The Wisconsin unemployment service said I quit my job. My employer and me disagree. Still working with my employer as of Oct. 28th 2020. Have no way to contact them. I pushed the appeal button on site on my determination. It said I could not appeal. 6 months later still haven’t heard from them. Go to the site every day and it is posted that my claim is being held pending resolution of outstanding issues. There needs to be a State Assembly Committee investigating this charade and to get to the bottom of this. Period.

  18. It’s still happening. I have 3 payments in the last 15 months that’s since august 2020. Car got repossessed. Was homeless for 8 months. And nobody could give me an answer. When I had filed a claim I told the specialist they had the wrong subsidiary down. As i worked for a huge company. She was just like “tell the next person ” went to adjudication. Got denied. Had a hearing in July. Ended immediately because, you guessed it. They had the wrong employer . Finally end of the first week of November 2021 I had a hearing. I found out today I won. Get this i got the letter ,it’s not even updated in the system. I was told it could take another month. They owe upwards of 18k!!! When I owe then money, they threaten to take my taxes and other things. They owe me money and have no accountability .. my case was simple. My question is, why was it denied by the adjudicator ? It was so obvious i was going to win according to how the law was written. Do adjudicators get bonuses based on denied claims? Will she be held accountable for making an egregregious error? My bet is nothing happens..

    Absolutely disgusting. I have lost faith in our government.

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