Some residents frustrated after special session for unemployment problems is immediately adjourned

Posted at 10:33 PM, Jan 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-19 23:33:21-05

MADISON — Wisconsin Republicans immediately adjourned a special session to discuss the problems with the state's unemployment system Tuesday afternoon, while thousands of Wisconsinites wait for their benefits.

When the pandemic began, Antonette Matis got laid off.

Matis applied for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or PUA in April, and to this day she says she has not received any money.

"I talk to people almost on a daily basis trying to figure out why I'm still disqualified, and no one can give me an answer," Matis said.

At last check, Matis is one of about 14,000 people waiting for their appeal with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. They are fighting a decision by the state to deny them unemployment benefits.

Gov. Tony Evers blames what he calls an "antiquated" unemployment system for struggling to quickly process 8.8 million unemployment claims since the pandemic began. The same system is leaving thousands more in legal limbo.

In his State of the State address, Gov. Evers called for a special session where lawmakers could discuss his plan to fix the unemployment system, including replacing outdated technology.

"No politics, no posturing, send me the bill and let’s just get it done," Evers said.

On Tuesday afternoon, state Republicans immediately adjourned the special session until Thursday.

Some Republican leaders say the governor has the means and money to begin fixing it.

"We’re happy to have him go forward and implement what he’s asked for in this legislation, the legislation is just not necessary," said Assembly Majority Leader Rep. Jim Steineke.

A spokesperson for the governor tweeted in part, "These problems aren’t new--Republicans have known for years our system was outdated and they refused to take action then just like they did again today."

According to the governor's office, there needs to be legislative approval and appropriation to spend the $90 million Evers estimates the overall project will cost.

Matis said she watched the special session and said it's frustrating to see finger between parties, rather than action.

"They are playing with our lives now," Matis said. "I can’t afford my medication, I can’t afford my rent, I can’t afford my car payment."

"They don’t get it, they're so disconnected from us," Matis added. "There’s no justification here."

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