As the world continues to navigate uncertain times, the Department of Workforce Development has reported skyrocketing numbers of those filing for unemployment.
As of May 4, more than half a million people have filed for unemployment benefits in Wisconsin, more than 15 times the number reported during the same period in 2019.
The Rebound Milwaukee is here to help you navigate through this trying time, with resources for getting back to work, how to file for unemployment and more. We are also bringing you real stories of people in our community navigating through the unemployment process.
Note: Each entry is organized with the most recent information listed first.
Here's Christopher Muetz's story:
As of May 27, all of my claims are still “pending." I have not been able to get in contact with Department of Workforce Development. With the hours and rate I am currently being paid, I am making less weekly than what I was quoted for UI, and less than I was making pre-quarantine, but too much to continue receiving SNAP benefits. I am happy to be doing something productive and prefer not to be unemployed, but there has not been a single instance of my interactions with DWD that has been anything less than frustrating and difficult.
May 27 -
Since my last email, I have called the DWD an additional 22 times, and I still have not even been put in the queue on hold
May 20 -
I noticed that the automated menus have changed. Currently, they ask first for your preferred language, and then they tell you how many people are in the queue. The lowest number I have heard has been 185, but that appears to be too many.
Every time after I hear how many people are ahead of me, I hear an automated voice saying that the queue is too full, and I get hung up on.
I have yet to receive benefits, or be able to speak to someone about why they are still pending
May 7 -
My first day back to working part time. I'm working 20 hours per week, and being paid for an additional 20 hours out of Snack Boys PPP loan, which covers 8 weeks of payroll
A member of the management staff recommended that I continue filing claims with unemployment, but to make sure that I submit my earnings with my weekly claim. He made that suggestion because we are not sure if the business will be able to sustain my employment without the use of the PPP loan, so I may very well be unemployed again in the near future.
I am worried about not being able to collect unemployment, but I am very nervous about looking for a job at an "essential business." Yesterday while working, I was told by an employee from the North Ave. Whole Foods that two of their employees had just tested positive for COVID-19 that same day.
April 26 -
After this date, I have only called a few times with the intention of seeking information as to whether I am still eligible to collect UI for the weeks I was unemployed and filing my claims.
April 23 -
A friend sent me this link in order to request that they contact me about my claim. The form stated that they would reach out to me within 5 business days. I have not heard anything from them via phone, email, of traditional mail regarding my request, or any other benefits for that matter. Ironically, the form also suggested that I try calling their offices, which I found infuriating.
April 19 -
Snack Boys was approved for its PPP loan. Management reached out to all employees and asked that anyone not already receiving UI consider being rehired. At that point, I had nearly given up any hope of receiving assistance from the government, and I asked to be included in their rehires.
April 10 -
At the recommendation of a friend, I applied, and was approved, for SNAP benefits.
April 1 -20 Overview -
During this time period, I called the DWD at least once per day, usually right at 7:35 a.m. when their call center opens. Most of my experiences ended in the same way: Being told by a recorded message that all operators were busy, and that they had reached the maximum number of calls placed on hold, and then I was hung up on.
The ones that didn’t end up that way were the calls when I either simply heard a busy signal, or a recorded message stating that "All Circuits Are Busy," again followed by an automatic hang up.
March 31 -
I received my pay stub from my Snack Boys. I downloaded a fax app on my phone and faxed the requested information to DWD. I included a written portion explaining the reason for the lateness of my fax and documentation of the times I had attempted to call their office. I have not received any confirmation that they have gotten this fax
March 23 -
I received the letter referenced below. Over the coming days, I attempted to contact my employer for a recent pay stub and DWD to let them know that I would not be able to get that information to them in the timeline described. As stated below, I was not able to get in contact with anyone at DWD.
March 19 -
I was sent a letter from DWD regarding the computation of my benefits. The letter stated that if I needed to make amendments to my claim, to reach out before 4/2.
The same letter also asked for more information regarding my earnings after 1/1/20, and requested that I fax or mail that information by 3/26.
March 16 -
As 3/15 had been a Sunday, and their offices were closed, I called the next day around noon, and was on hold for close to two and a half hours. The gentleman I spoke to let me know that, under normal circumstances, this request to meet in person was standard. Given the circumstances however, he said I was allowed to forgo that meeting, and that he would process my claim.
At that point, it was my understanding that I wouldn’t need to do any follow up
Of the 348 individual calls I have made to DWD, this was not only the single time that I was able to speak to a human person, it was also the only time I have been able to be put in the queue to be on hold.
March 15 -
Snack Boy was scheduled to close its doors on this date, and we had planned to reopen at our new location on 3/27. The day before had been my last scheduled day of work. On this day, management let all employees know that they were, in effect, fired. This was done in anticipation of the number of UI claims that have since been filed with DWD. We were all encouraged to apply for benefits as soon as we were able.
This was the day I filed my initial claim with DWD. When making this initial claim, I was told that I would need to physically go into the local DWD office and provide documentation of my work status as well as photo identification
Here's Pete Viravec's story:
My funds are running super low. We used the federal stimulus money to pay for our mortgage, car payment and get some food. With my wife being 26 weeks pregnant, it's vital that we keep her nutrition values up. She also has celiac disease, which is an auto immune disease which on top of being pregnant makes her high risk for the disease.
This also means that our grocery bills are probably twice as much as others. A loaf of celiac safe bread is about $4 to $5 versus a loaf of Kroger bread for $1.
May 21 -
I finally got the money deposited into my account this morning! So again thanks for your help.
May 20 -
After emailing you last night I also sent follow ups to Senator Chris Kapenga and State Representative Adam Neylon.
Jason Booth from Senator Kapenga's office e-mailed me back this morning saying they reached out to DWD again, who finally took a look at my claim.
They found the small error I made (which I knew I made but no one could fix except for an adjudicator) and it looks like my claims are no longer under review.
They said it may take a couple days for the payment to hit my account so I will save my full celebration until I actually see the money. It looks like there might actually be some light at the end of this very long 2 months.
I will let you know when I finally see the payment hit my account and if it includes all the backpay/federal money as well.
I also have to thank Jason Booth at Senator Kapenga's office as he reached out to DWD multiple times to get my claim moved along.
Thanks again for all your help and the constantly stories/pressure on DWD. I am just one person but I am sure there are others who are equally as thankful.
May 19 -
I still have not received any benefits. I have tried calling unemployment the past two days. I tried about 10 times yesterday and got the “Sorry your call could not be completed as dialed” about 15 times today. Today resulted in about 10 busy signals and 5 “your call could not be completed...” messages.
I have not heard anything from my state rep or state senators since their initial email back to me saying they have contacted their person at DWD.
May 11 -
I contacted Congressman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., State Senator Chris Kapenga, and State Representative Adam Neylon on May 7. These are the results:
Congressman Sensenbrenner Jr had someone call me in a hour after I sent the email. Unfortunately since this is a state level issue, as well as the $600 federal unemployment assistance, which is being run by the state as well, he is unable to offer much assistance as this is not a federal issue. He wished me the best of luck.
State Rep Adam Neylon had someone email me later that day. They were going to try and reach out to DWD to see if they can help push my claim along. They asked for my phone number and address which I supplied later that day. I have no heard back from them since (May 7) and sent an email earlier this morning (May 11) asking if for an update/if they were able to reach someone at DWD. I am still awaiting a response.
State Senator Kapenga had someone email me back today (May 11). He escalated my file to their legislative liaison at the Department of Workforce Development, who will in turn have someone from Unemployment Insurance call me. However they are still overwhelmed and it still maybe a week or more before someone contacts me.
I tried calling DWD this morning (May 11) a few times as according to their website I should have received something in the mail about my determination. I still have not received anything so I wanted to inquire about that. I just got the busy signal a bunch of times and stopped trying for the day as i am sure they get hit the hardest on Mondays.
April 30 -
Via a Reddit thread, someone said to use the contact form as they were able to get a phone call back in a couple days. I filled out that form and submitted.
April 21 -
Through a tip, I was told to contact DWD via Facebook. I contacted them asking how long before an adjudicator could look at my case. They replied back within 10 minutes saying they "do not have access to the claim system" and can only help if people are unable to access the system.
April 15 -
Filled out the food share/EBT questionnaire and was told that my wife makes too much money for us to qualify for food share/EBT.
April 14 -
Wife and I both called right at 7:35 when they opened. After busy signals for 20 minutes, I finally go put on hold with an estimate wait time of 350 minutes. That slowly reduced down and after 2 hours on hold I got to speak to a nice lady. She was able to pull up my file, but could pretty much only see that I filed. She could not see what I answered for the questions, etc. She did state that my issue was more likely that I put "leave of absence" versus "termination - short term" even though I was not terminated, but this was only speculative. She told me to see if I could qualify for food share/EBT.
April 13 -
Called DWD about 20 times throughout the day. I either got a "number could not be connected as dialed" or "a busy signal." I did get to the point where you enter your SSN and then it just states "sorry we have reached out max of people on hold, goodbye" and hangs up. To me that is a flaw in the system. It should know if there is a hold spot open BEFORE entering my information on the phone.
April 12 -
Filled out my weekly claim. This also got marked as pending and just says "under view" as the status.
April 5 -
Saw the my filing was marked as "pending" and needed to be reviewed by an adjudicator. Website said it could take up to 21 days or more before someone can look at it.
April 4 -
Created an account on DWD, filled out the form to file for unemployment. Form was pretty straightforward, but I got confused by options
"Termination - Long Term, Termination - Short Term and Leave of Absence." I picked leave of absence as that is what my company called it, as technically we are still employed by them.
April 3 -
I was furloughed along with about 150 other employees at my company.
I will provide any future interactions with DWD as they arise.
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Stay tuned for future entries from other community members.