[Madison, WI] – In case you missed it, today the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel highlighted the failures of Tony Evers’ Department of Workforce Development to move unemployment claims through the appeals process. Despite the Evers administration’s claims that they “cleared the backlog” last December, thousands of Wisconsinites are still waiting for their claims to be adjudicated nearly 17 months after Evers enacted his costly lockdowns in 2020.
Meanwhile, instead of leading the charge to clear the backlog and ensure that Wisconsinites receive the benefits they were promised, Tony Evers has chosen to remain clueless and ignore requests for information from Wisconsin elected officials. It’s no surprise from the governor who only met with the former DWD Secretary once to fire him, but Wisconsinites deserve better than a governor who throws up his hands, does nothing, and refuses to lead while struggling families beg for help.
Read more from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel below:
‘It’s extremely frustrating’: Thousands of unemployment claims caught in appeal backlog, holding up unemployment payment for months
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
August 18, 2021
Michelle Bump has been waiting since December on unemployment payments.
Bump, who lives in Milwaukee, filed for unemployment last year after losing her job in the service industry. She found out her claim was denied in mid-February and filed an appeal right away, hoping to resolve the issue and access her unemployment benefits.
What she didn’t count on was getting caught up in the massive backlog of appeals waiting to go before the Department of Workforce Development’s administrative law judges for a decision.
Bump ended up waiting nearly five months for her appeal to get in front of a judge, finally landing a hearing at the beginning of July. She received a notice that she’d won the appeal on July 27, but still is waiting for the benefits to be released to her.
Currently, there are more than 4,700 appeals scheduled, with another 13,151 appeals pending, as of July 31, the most recent data available from the department. The average age of appeals filed that are awaiting a hearing is 58 days.
The number of appeals is forcing claimants to wait months to get their claims in front of a judge.
A report also recently found that the state was failing to comply with federal regulations regarding appeals, which requires that 80% be resolved within 45 days. Between December 2020 and May 2021, the department was only resolving 20% of appeals within that time period, leading multiple claimants to report the department to the Legislative Audit Bureau, a nonpartisan group that evaluates state operations.
Alex Stensberg was traveling out of the country when the pandemic hit and the job he worked in a hotel in Wisconsin Rapids was affected. Before he left the country, his employer had agreed to let him return to the job when he came back to the states, but between a change in ownership and the pandemic, his name slipped through the cracks.
When he applied for unemployment, he was denied both because the new owner of the hotel said he didn’t work there and because his claim was filed from outside the country. He tried to appeal the decision that he was fired, but didn’t hear anything.
“Between those two things, I stopped filing, mostly because I thought that was it for me,” he said.
He returned to the states, and was informed in July that his appeal for the denial was accepted. A judge ultimately overturned the denial after an explanation of what happened. Stensberg then back-filed for the months he missed when he thought he didn’t qualify for unemployment.
But filing those claims late led to another problem. When a department employee called to ask why he filed late, he explained, but those filings were denied. He appealed the decision, and now stands at square one again.
Kara Muñoz, of Neenah, is also still waiting on the appeals process.
She applied for benefits in January, after losing her sales job. She applied for unemployment but was denied after her previous employer said she was fired. The whole process of adjudication was difficult, she said, and it seemed like the person in charge of her claim placed the word of the employer above hers, ultimately asking her very few questions before making the decision.
Muñoz quickly filed for an appeal the same day as a denial, and then was forced to wait for months until a hearing was scheduled.