MILWAUKEE — The Department of Workforce Development (DWD) participated in a live question and answer session on TMJ4's Facebook Live Thursday afternoon, explaining some of the most pressing issues people have regarding unemployment.
"Even in 2008, we didn't have half of the unemployment claims throughout the whole great recession," Emily Savard with the DWD said.
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Savard says there are over 440,000 Wisconsinites who have filed for unemployment, and their system is overwhelmed with people trying to get questions answered.
More than 500 comments came in during the Facebook Live, with many revolving around just getting in touch with the DWD. Many complained about waiting for hours on the phone to get through with no luck. Savard says they understand the frustration and are adding more help.
"We have borrowed over 100 people within the DWD and trained them to work within unemployment," Savard said. "We're currently hiring about 200 staff to come on board, and we're also looking at hiring hundreds of staff in an additional call center to specifically deal with calls and get some other issues taken care of."
Before picking up the phone, though, Savard suggests going to the Department of Workforce Development website, where many questions can be answered.
"Our phone lines continue to be overwhelmed with calls," Savard said. "The phone should not be somebody's first means of simply gathering information. We would love if the phones are reserved for people who cannot find an answer after looking themselves or if people are told to call in."
Facebook Live had many other questions, ranging from simple to complex. Like simple mistakes, people make that could hold up their claim is processed.
"People are asking if I filed for regular unemployment and haven't heard, should I apply for pandemic unemployment at the same time to get those two things rolling at once," Savard said. "The answer is no. Pandemic unemployment assistance is only for people who do not qualify for regular unemployment insurance. If you had those two applications going, that will create more of a workload, and it will slow things down."
When it comes to receiving money, Savard says it's essential to continue filing every week, and people will receive back pay for the weeks they were approved. She also says the $600 from the federal pandemic unemployment compensation should be coming soon.
"We are in the process of programming that right now and anticipate paying that money next week," Savard said. "No matter the eligibility on a weekly basis, they get an additional $600 on top of that. Every week they would get that additional $600 on top of a weekly benefit rate."
If you were laid off, furloughed or terminated, keep in mind, any vacation time you've accrued is owed to you.
"It depends on the employer, but generally, if you do have accrued paid time off, vacation or other benefits, you haven't used up for the period yet, you should be paid those out as well," Attorney Samantha Huddleston said.
If you have questions that weren't answered in the Facebook Live, please email firstname.lastname@example.org, and we'll try to get you an answer to help you rebound.