THE PROBLEM: The COVID-19 pandemic has made it painfully clear that the Department of Workforce Development’s (DWD) Division of Unemployment Insurance (UI) is mismanaged and not aligned with the needs of workers or employers. It failed at delivering benefits to Wisconsinites when they needed them most during the pandemic, and it continues to fail at helping unemployed Wisconsinites find employment – despite employers all over the state desperate to hire.
POLICY SOLUTION: LRB 4768 by Reps. Petryk, Penterman and Sen. Roth will refocus the DWD UI Division so that it has as its primary mission getting people back into the workforce and off of benefits. That means helping unemployed individuals with employment counseling, job matching, substance abuse treatment, and more. And it means helping employers with grants to help offset the costs of hiring a long-term unemployed individual and encouraging individuals to take part-time work without fear of losing 100% of their unemployment insurance benefits.
1. Throughout the pandemic, the DWD UI Division has failed at its most basic function – delivering unemployment insurance benefits to Wisconsinites who were out of work due to government shut downs and other pandemic related causes.
2. According to a May 2021 report from the Center for Research on the Wisconsin Economy (CROWE) at UW-Madison, The (Poor) Performance of the Unemployment Insurance System during COVID-19 in the United States and (Especially) Wisconsin, more than 70% of benefit payments were delayed more than 70 days last year – the 8th highest rate in the nation. For the week ending September 18, there were still 35,000 weekly claims, with 12,500 pending appeals with an average age of 55 days.
3. Early in the pandemic, claimants were facing a 13-week delay for their claims to be resolved and benefits paid. According to a report at the end of 2020 from the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau, DWD was responsible for 11 of those weeks.
4. Employers continue to struggle to find individuals to hire, despite there being thousands of benefit claimants weekly in the state and over 127,000 job seekers according to the Job Center of Wisconsin website. (9/27/2021)
5. LRB 4768 will refocus the UI Division at DWD on reemployment efforts by redefining its mission to focus on helping people get back into the workforce by offering greater job counseling, job matching, substance abuse treatment, and more.