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State Still Working To Clear Unemployment Backlog

DWD Secretary Says Goal Is To Return To 'Timeliness' In Processing All Claims

Unemployment insurance claims office
Bytemarks (CC-BY)

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Wisconsin has seen roughly three times as many weekly unemployment claims as it saw in all of last year.

Caleb Frostman, the head of the state Department of Workforce Development, told WPR’s “The Morning Show” Monday the state had received 4.6 million weeks’ worth of unemployment claims between mid-March and the week of July 20. That’s compared to 1.9 million throughout 2019.

Frostman says the state is still working to clear the backlog of claims, now 19 weeks since the surge in job losses began.

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“We are working in order of oldest claims first, which is getting those folks that have claimed earlier on paid more quickly,” he said.

Frostman said the most straightforward claims are now being handled close to the typical 21 days to process.

He said clearing the rest of the backlog could be finished by the end of summer, but that the work might continue through October.

The state caps weekly unemployment benefits at $370.

The federal CARES Act included an additional $600 per week in unemployment aid, but that benefit has just expired.

Frostman said the Evers Administration is calling on Congress to extend the expanded benefit as part of the next coronavirus relief package to help jobless residents as well as Wisconsin businesses.

“It’s not just those families, it’s our community’s economy that rely on that consumer spending,” he said. “It’s really challenging to envision 8, 9 or 10 percent of Wisconsin’s workforce being unemployed and trying to keep themselves afloat and keep our state’s economy afloat on only $370 a week.”

Wisconsin’s unemployment rate stood at 8.5 percent in June, down from 12.1 percent the month before.