, , , ,

DWD To Begin Issuing First Payments Under Extended Benefits Unemployment Program

First Payments Come More Than 6 Months After Program Became Available In Wisconsin

Unemployment insurance claims office
Bytemarks (CC-BY)

The first unemployment insurance payments under a federal program known as Extended Benefits will be sent out to eligible unemployment recipients beginning Wednesday night, according to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.

The first payments made under the program come more than six months after the benefits were made available to Wisconsin by the federal government in late May.

Extended Benefits, a program that triggers “on” and “off” in states depending on metrics like the state’s unemployment rate, gives unemployment recipients up to an additional 13 weeks of unemployment insurance.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

In Wisconsin, those eligible for regular unemployment insurance could get a maximum of 26 weeks of benefits. If they still needed unemployment at the end of that 26 weeks, they could be eligible for an additional 13 weeks of benefits under Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC). Then, if they exhausted their benefits under both programs and still needed unemployment insurance, they could apply for as much as an additional 13 weeks of benefits under Extended Benefits.

Under the program in Wisconsin, recipients are only eligible to claim up to 13 weeks of benefits between the week starting May 17 and the week ending Nov. 7. Those are the weeks the federal program was “turned on” in the state.

The program was the last of five federal unemployment programs available to Wisconsin during the pandemic to be set up by DWD. Three new programs were created under the coronavirus aid bill, one was created by the Trump administration, and the last — Extended Benefits — is a federal unemployment program that predated the pandemic.

How Payments Will Work

On Monday, the department mailed letters to more than 10,000 Wisconsinites to inform them they may be eligible for money under the program, said DWD transition director Amy Pechacek.

Pechacek also noted that, because the payments are retroactive, they will be made in one lump sum for all the weeks a recipient was eligible. She said she was excited to get the money “into the hands of the folks that need it most.”

The department said it is possible that some who apply for the program during the day Wednesday could get paid as early as Wednesday night if they have no eligibility issues. That would be a considerably fast processing time for a department that has been plagued by backlogs and extremely long wait times.

DWD noted that if there is an eligibility issue with a person’s claim, payment would be contingent on the outcome of an investigation into the issue.

Lee Schutter, a Verona resident who has been waiting to receive her benefits under the program since late July, was suspicious of the possibility that people could receive their money within a day of applying.

“That doesn’t tick and tie with their usual process of wait for an enormity of weeks until they tell you you’re eligible or you’re not,” said Schutter, who was notified she may be eligible and is in the process of submitting her application for the program. “So, this escalation sounds awesome, but … I’m sorry you just get a little leery because it has gone on forever with so many glitches and roadblocks that, you do, you get tentative.”

The long delay in receiving benefits has put many who are waiting in an increasingly desperate financial position. Schutter said she’ll have an immense amount of gratitude when she finally receives payment for her benefits.

“It will be an absolute prayer answered,” Schutter said. “I wish we had had it earlier but, you know, reality is we don’t, and we are in a precarious position. And so finally getting this amount of weeks paid that’s been due will be just a true blessing.”

Why Extended Benefits Is No Longer ‘On’ In Wisconsin

On Nov. 5, the department announced Extended Benefits had “turned off” in Wisconsin after a metric called the insured unemployment rate, which measures the share of people on unemployment in Wisconsin relative to the number of people covered by the unemployment insurance system, dropped below 5 percent.

One unemployment insurance expert noted at the time that the insured unemployment rate does not count people on the new unemployment programs created under the federal coronavirus relief bill, so the metric is artificially low.

Despite the payments going out Wednesday, the program remains “off” in Wisconsin. Payments being sent out by DWD starting Wednesday are retroactive payments for those who were eligible when the program was “turned on” in Wisconsin between May and November.

DWD said in November that when the agency finished setting up the program, all those eligible for it would receive retroactive payments for the weeks they were owed.