Unemployment delays, part 3: your stories here

These posts — hundreds of thousands still waiting to be paid benefits and about legal obstacles being waived because of Department mishandling of claims — have led folks to contact me about their own stories of delay.

Note: The comments on numerous posts on this blog already contain dozens of stories about delays with claims. See here, here, here, and here, for example.

These stories need to be consolidated in one place. Why not right here with this post?

So, if you have a story about a delay, please add it to the comments below. Update your story, if possible. You can include any personal details you want or leave your story anonymously. While wordpress requires you to include an e-mail address when posting a comment, only I will know about that e-mail address. And, frankly, I do not have the time to follow-up with you directly about your story. So, I will not be sharing your information with anyone.

Note: Despite the urge, please refrain from profanity or personal attacks against identifiable people. And, do try to include paragraph breaks so that your story is easier to read.

To kick off these stories, here is one I received last night from an attorney:

I helped my stepson apply in April. He has yet to see a dime. They’re waiting on adjudication on a job that he had for a couple months that he quit to take a better job.

I called two days ago and talked to someone who was utterly clueless. She was only able to tell me that the holdup is because the employer isn’t responding. I said well then make a determination based on the information you have! This is being held up for five months now because the employer didn’t respond.

She said the law requires them to send a certain number of letters out to the employer before they can make a decision without employer’s statement. She said that they’re too busy to send out all those letters. She said they’re working as fast as they can blah blah blah. She didn’t even know what a weekly certification was or where we go in the portal to change his address. It’s ridiculous! His claim is held up because of an issue that would clearly qualify him.

But [that issue] doesn’t matter because he lost his job before that due to misconduct (absenteeism). He was only at his most recent job for 2 or 3 weeks before they closed due to covid. So, he’s not going to qualify for regular UI and will qualify for PUA. However they still haven’t made decisions on his regular UI after five months!

[To get by financially, he] did do a few weeks covid testing with the national guard and is now working through a temp agency, but when he was unemployed and had no income my wife and I were supporting him which we cannot afford to do either. Like we are all hurting badly, and there are even more people out there who don’t have family to help them out.

Even if you have already posted your story in the comments on this blog, I urge you again to include your story here on this post. In this way, there will be a central location for all of these stories about the delays Wisconsin has wrought.

Update (21 Sept. 2020): Updated post title with “your stories here.”

Update (19 Oct. 2020): Fox6 has a great story from Department insiders themselves complaining about the delays: “Since the spring, DWD has hired hundreds of additional employees to help process unemployment claims. But claims specialists say the system itself has not fundamentally changed, allowing the backlog to continue.”

And, here is some tips and places for assistance for those losing hope right now.

Don’t despair
There is something else to say about these delays. Several comments on this blog over the past few weeks are comments of despair, no hope, and even thoughts of suicide. I know finances can be a mess after months and months of no income. As a kid, I moved three times in one six month period. At times, I have struggled for work as an adult, and I have made some terrible career choices at other points in my life.

But, life is always more than your finances. Despite all the pain of the moment, please keep the folks you love in mind right now. They matter. And, they will want you around after all of this current catastrophe has passed.

  • For help with your unemployment issue, contact your state representative or senator (use this link to find out who your state representative is).
  • IMPORTANT: If you have unpaid food, housing, or medical bills, tell the representative that and ask that your claim be expedited because of that financial emergency. Provide an initial determination number or hearing number if you have one. Do not talk about weeks at issue (that is the substance; before you can talk substance you need to explain the procedural status of your case).
  • You will also probably need to provide a social security number (last four digits at least), birth date, phone number, e-mail address, and your mailing address to your state representative.
  • Do NOT provide screen shots or discuss issues with the on-line portal (short answer: everything in the portal is pending until resolved; see this post for help with navigating the portal). Just tell the representative the problem you are having: I’m being denied benefits because DWD is looking into why I was laid off, why I quit a job in 2019, why I answered no on question X on my weekly claim, why I had just less work because of the pandemic and did not lose all work, etc. In most cases, there will be NO factual explanation for why your case is on hold or being denied because the Department itself has made a mistake in processing your claim.
  • If you do not know what the issue is holding up your claim, call either the regular unemployment assistance line at 414-435-7069 or 844-910-3661 or the PUA assistance line at 608-318-7100, depending on whether you have a regular unemployment or a PUA unemployment claim. You can get more information from these folks than from your portal. If there is nothing new, then there probably is nothing new. Claims and hearings processing are gummed up mightily, and all kinds of problems are popping up and leading to further delays.
  • Wait 4-5 days and then follow-up with the legislator about the status of your request to have your case expedited.
  • While waiting, call 211, the United Way help line for your county and ask about the emergency help you need.
  • If close to Madison, here is a link to programs that provide emergency financial assistance in small amounts (usually $25-$100) and housing help.
  • Finally, think about what happened in the past when government likewise tried to pretend economic problems and dire need did not exist.

Update (21 Oct. 2020): Fixed some of the formatting for the Oct. 19th update. Also, the Fox6 open record podcast has an episode on the unemployment chaos in the state that deserves a listen.

Update (2 Dec. 2020): Courtesy of Hawks Quindel and others, here are some additional resources:

Update (4 Dec. 2020): added Wisconsin Judicare.

Update (29 Jan. 2021): clarified the above advice about getting help from state legislators.

Update (6 Aug. 2021): why you should get vaccinated.


  • Wisconsin Dep’t of Health Services ACCESS: On-line application for Wisconsin benefits and programs relating to Medicaid (and BadgerCare) coverage, paying for groceries (SNAP) and child care, and other issues. There is an application guide is available in English, Spanish, and numerous other languages at the ACCESS link.
  • St Vincent de Paul (find the location nearest to you): Food pantry, charitable pharmacy, clothing, furniture, bedding and household goods, housing programs, and storage programs.
  • Contact your local county Dep’t of Human Services for numerous support services for older adults, health care options, after school programs, support for disabled individuals, transportation assistance, and numerous other kinds of support.
  • Update (3 Feb. 2021): Finding AA meetings in Wisconsin
  • Update (10 March 2021): Rental Assistance Program beginning February 2021. Go to the Wisconsin Community Action Program Association website and then click on your county on the map to take advantage of this rental assistance program.

Dane County and Madison

  • Community Action Coalition for South Central Wisconsin: Clothing center, community gardens, financial assistance, housing case management and assistance, Koats for Kids, serving area food pantries, gleaners perishable food recovery program, and FoodShare at the Farmers’ Market. Active in Jefferson and Waukesha counties as well.
  • Community Justice, Inc.: Non-profit law firm in which legal fees are proportional to your income. The legal services include family law, restraining orders, housing, including landlord/tenant issues, mental health, employment, discrimination, consumer fraud & scams, criminal, personal bankruptcy, SSDI, basic estate planning, defense litigation of personal injury, property damage, and consumer cases, small claims cases, insurance disputes.
  • Freedom Inc.: Numerous youth support programs as well as support programs for Hmong and Black adults and elders.
  • Homeless Services Consortium of Dane County: Housing Resource Line, coordinated intake, housing resource desk, family shelter (Salvation Army), single women’s shelter (Salvation Army), single men’s shelter (Porchlight), domestic abuse helpline (DAIS), and Youth Services Crisis Hotline (Briarpatch).
  • Neighborhood Law Clinic: UW Madison law school clinic where law students provide a broad range of legal services in rental housing, employment, and public benefits law.

North Central Wisconsin

Northern Wisconsin

  • Wisconsin Judicare: represents low income individuals for no fee in: unemployment appeals, evictions, foreclosures, some tax issues, and who are victims of domestic violence and elder abuse in the 33 northern counties and 11 federally recognized tribes.

18 thoughts on “Unemployment delays, part 3: your stories here

  1. I had an overpayment of $150.00, with fees and processing came to around $1,500.00. That has been paid off since 2018, but then they also slapped me with a forfeiture of 6 years or $6,480. I have applied for and still waiting for a reply to at least get a partial payment of anything at all since April, as I am a school bus driver and have been out of work, 6et they will need me to come back at some point. My records show that I should be receiving reg unemployment and FPUA, but only regular is being applied to the forfeiture

  2. It’s going on almost 6 months now because I has to take a different job to try to support my family everything is being held up. I’m at the end of my rope…I feel like I’m going to lose my mind. So much needs paying. I’m so tired of this. It is nonsence. I have no family to fall back on..no husband and no savings. How in gods name can they do this to people without being held accountable for peoples lives being literally ruined??? I’m in tears..i just don’t know what to do anymore about this utter lack of care for how people are supposed to live. So many people are out here suffering. And they don’t care. Wisconsin doesn’t care about us poor folk.

  3. I have been working with my employer for 28 years and still am up to this day. They said I quit my job around April 4th 2020 which is a fabrication. I am still working for my same employer. They told me my employer said I quit on his form. My employer said he did no such thing. He showed me the form in which showed he made no mistakes in reporting my work status. August 8th they said they sent me a form to fill out. I did not receive one … ever. They said the mail was slow and I should expect it in a few days. Never got one. A week later on my unemployment site, the notice they sent a form disappeared. Called them up several times over the past month, surprisingly with no wait. Problem was they were working at home, cell phone reception is terrible on their end. Also kids screaming in background, dishes clanking around and cars driving close by were very distracting. Not a good work environment. This needs to be investigated by the state. They are holding up 2 weeks of my unemployment. My employer has not been contacted by the unemployment office at all. Must be terrible for those waiting paycheck to paycheck. Wishing you all the best and Good Luck.

  4. Pingback: Recap of the 2020 public hearing | Wisconsin Unemployment

  5. Pingback: Unemployment delays, part 4 | Wisconsin Unemployment

  6. Received a payment and now they’re saying my benefits are denied because of restrictions and child care concerns for an employer that I worked for in 2019. I worked from home in 2019 and worked for Amazon Flex and Uber Eats (in which both companies I allowed me to bring my son). And furthermore, as I explained to the adjudicator, I have my fiancé who watches him as well. So child care isn’t the issue. His school closed down due to the pandemic and has not reopened yet (virtual only). I appealed their decision and am awaiting an appeal hearing date. Hopefully they’ll look at the facts and listen to the interview and decide in my favor without the need of an appeal hearing, however. I see they’re doing their very best to deny people their benefits!

  7. Pingback: Unemployment delays, part 5 | Wisconsin Unemployment

  8. I am definitely in this group. Example denied regular benefits due to a “restriction in my availability” uh yeah you ever hear of coronavirus?? My sons school closed he a 2nd grader I became a 2nd grade teacher like so many others. I told them that. But no because their system wasn’t updated for that specific question when filing your weekly claim and I was being honest when I said I wasn’t available ( now they have a footnote that if you’re filing due to covid to say yes on this specific question) I was disqualified until Sept 5th. When school started again… virtual again….

    Fast forward to this week I’ve been receiving 17$ a week before taxes and conveniently the week they started paying the extra 300$ a week I’m being held up now because wages from Aug I reported don’t match what my employer reported and they have to investigate…again…..for weeks filed that I was already disqualified for?!?!?!? After they’ve paid me since. Really???

  9. Filed UC last week March 2020, months later denied due to SSD. Applied to PUA and denied after months due to question answered wrong. Finally January 5, 2021 appeal was reversed. I received 7 payments and now I cannot enter weekly claim info for back weeks. Site says I must reapply with PUA. PUA says I have to set appointment with claims specialist, I did and they did not call at appointed time despite 2 emails to remind me about the appointment. Pua sent me to another phone number for help and I was told they could do nothing. Pua said they can’t do anything, only a claims specialist can so I had to schedule another appointment to have a claims specialist call me. So I am out another few days waiting to see if they remember to call me this time. I feel like I am being jerked around and I am very frustrated. I cannot get a number to call a claims specialist or an email to find out why they did not call or if they will honor this appointment coming up. Does anyone have any ideas on how to get help and put an end to this almost year long process?

  10. Pingback: Unemployment delays, part 6 | Wisconsin Unemployment

  11. Pingback: Unemployment delays, part 7 | Wisconsin Unemployment

  12. Pingback: Unemployment delays, part 8 | Wisconsin Unemployment

  13. I am an artist. I sell works through pop up tables outside art fairs and festivals. The pandemic killed my business. It’s hard enough to compete with other artists for spaces inside the fairs and the pandemic has become a destroyer of opportunities. The shut down killed any momentum of moving my art.

    Now, the DWD tells me ‘You need to file an appeal because you’re paying it all back…with penalties.’

    I’m screwed. My first thought – if I die, do my loved ones have to pay it back? Because that’s the only solution that sits on the table.

    I make 6k a year on art. I have no will anymore.
    My hearing is Aug. 10th.


    • Read my post on concealment profiteering. You can win this fight. DWD is counting on you giving up on despair. The system is built on the idea that the UI system can ignore the law and get away with it.

  14. Pingback: Unemployment Delays, part 9 — The portal is NOT accurate | Wisconsin Unemployment

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