Historic volume causes challenges applying for unemployment, DWD working to meet need

Posted at 7:34 PM, Apr 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-16 10:47:39-04

As another 6.6 million workers across the United States filed for unemployment benefits last week, Wisconsin's Department of Workforce Development projects the state's unemployment rate may reach 27 percent.

The DWD has been working to meet historic demand during the coronavirus pandemic.

"Some days are good; some days are stressful, you know? You don't know how you're going to make ends meet," said T.J. McKee.

T.J. typically bartends at three local spots, including Tomken's in West Allis. But the coronavirus pandemic forced him out of work.

T.J. says he began applying for unemployment on March 18.

"When I started the process, it seemed very simple until I got to the part where I had to contact someone," T.J. recalled.

Since then, it has been frustrating. His filing seems to be stuck in limbo.

"Every day I wake up, I make phone calls. I have it on speed dial constantly calling to see if I get through," said T.J.

Since March 15, 332,244 people filed for unemployment in Wisconsin.

"We've been shifting additional personnel into our unemployment insurance call center, and we continue to do that," said DWD Secretary Caleb Frostman.

On Facebook Thursday, Secretary Frostman said they are working tirelessly to meet demand. He adds DWD has experienced up to 100,000 calls per hour and sometimes 160 calls per second.

"We also made significant improvements to our I.T. and telecom systems to prevent early morning crashes, which we continue to examine, improve, and expand," said Frostman.

He added DWD has been able to process as many as 25,000 claims per day, up to 99 percent of them were done through their online portal.

Meanwhile, T.J. remains persistent, calling DWD daily, working whatever odd jobs he can, and making payment plans as his savings account dwindles.

Frostman says he signed agreements for a new federal unemployment benefits program. It could be weeks before that gets off the ground.

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