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Empower Wisconsin | Oct. 20, 2020

MADISON — Noting a Wisconsin Spotlight story about a Menomonee Falls woman who has waited more than eight months for her Unemployment Insurance payments, four southeast Wisconsin lawmakers are urging Gov. Tony Evers to clean up the mess that remains at his dysfunctional state Department of Workforce Development.

State Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) joined Reps. Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls), Jim Ott (R-Mequon) and Dan Knodl (R-Germantown) on Tuesday sent a letter to the Evers administration asking DWD to further use the tools provided to the administration to shift staff between agencies as well as expand call center hours.

While Darling said she is grateful to see DWD implementing Goggle Cloud to help ease the massive backlog of cases, “we’ve heard excuses before.”

The agency’s partnership with Google Cloud will provide expedited review of UI and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims to assist in processing claim payment determinations, according to a DWD press release issued Monday.

“Our top priority is ensuring that all eligible unemployment claims in Wisconsin are paid as quickly as possible,” DWD Transition Director Amy Pechacek said.

The lawmakers said thousands continue to wait months for their benefits. They pointed to Wisconsin Spotlight’s story last week featuring Brittney Gitzlaff, 33, of Menomonee Falls. The mother of three young children says she and her husband have spent through their savings while waiting more than eight months for DWD to get its act together.

“Brittney and her family are needlessly suffering,” Brandtjen said, “Let’s get her the unemployment she paid into for years.”

The legislators say hundreds of constituents have reached out to their offices – some experiencing homelessness, food insecurity, issues with mental health, and trouble accessing critical medications.

“It’s time for DWD to finally deal with the unemployment benefit backlog,” Ott said, “Our constituents need to pay their bills and put food on the table.”

As the lawmakers note, Back in May, DWD promised to fix the backlog by October. That hasn’t happened. Representative Dan Knodl says more needs to be done.

“Families across Wisconsin have been suffering due to the inaction of the Evers Administration,” Knodl said. “The unwillingness to utilize the tools available has left many claimants waiting months to receive the benefits they’ve earned and now the Administration hopes to have the backlog cleared by the end of the year. These timelines are unacceptable.”

Read the letter to  Evers here.

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