Unemployment checks will look a lot smaller after federal deadline

Posted at 9:49 AM, Jul 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-22 19:47:37-04

MILWAUKEE — Those collecting unemployment in Wisconsin will see significantly less in their bank accounts next week, after the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program sunsets on Saturday.

The program, known as FPUC, provided an additional $600 a week to those out of work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Created under the CARES Act, it was slated to end in the last full week of July.

But not everyone has received their unemployment benefits in Wisconsin, including their $600 a week. As of Monday, the Department of Workforce Development says there are 568,000 claims waiting to be processed, with some unemployed waiting since March and April for benefits.

Deirdra Peterson, a Milwaukee mom and former customer service rep, applied for unemployment back in April. She's still waiting for help, including that $600 to help pay her mortgage and the upcoming school year for her kids.

"Lucky I have my stimulus, where I paid June and July at the same time, but I don't know how I'm going to pay August and how I'm just going to live," she said. "I don't know how I'm going to do it after that."

DWD Secretary Caleb Frostman told us when those claims are processed, they will include the $600 a week each person was owed. After that, it's up to the federal government to make a determination as to what is next.

Frostman says the maximum a person can make on Wisconsin unemployment is $370. That benefit ceiling hasn't changed since 2014, by Frostman's estimation.

"So that's a big drop off for a lot of people, and we're hearing all sorts of different things on the federal side about what could be coming down the pipe," Frostman said. "But as of right now, nothing's been identified."

"Things are going to be tough for a couple of weeks," said Chenon Times-Rainwater of West Bend.

Times-Rainwater is an administrator on a pair of Facebook groups; one aimed at providing help to those waiting for benefits called the Wisconsin Unemployment Support Group, and another positioned towards making changes and getting relief from lawmakers in Madison, called the Wisconsin Unemployment Action Group.

She points out that the $370 a week is the maximum a person can make, and many of the people she's involved qualify for about $160 a week.

"The futures pretty dim because in the grand scope of things, Wisconsin has a pretty low weekly benefit window, the lowest is $5 and the highest is $370," she said. "So once effort goes away you're talking about people that could have a weekly benefit right of only $5."

Frostman says the DWD plans to ask the Legislature to raise that maximum benefit once the pandemic is over. However, for people still waiting for the benefits they applied for in spring, they're asking for help now.

"I just want to make my make my mortgage payments and see what I can do," Deirdra said. "Because my kids need internet too because they'll be going back to school, so I don't know what to do with that either."

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