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Wisconsin Spotlight  | Oct. 29, 2020

MADISON — The faces of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development’s failures are many and hard to ignore. 

But four Southeast Wisconsin lawmakers say Unemployment Insurance claimants like Brittney Gitzlaff, who has been waiting more than eight months for her unemployment payments, are getting the silent treatment from the Evers administration. 

“Hundreds of constituents who followed the rules … are still waiting to hear from (Gov.) Tony Evers’ administration,” Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) said in a press release this week. 

Darling joined state Reps. Janel Brandtjen, Jim Ott, and Dan Knodl last week in a letter to the Evers administration urging DWD to further use the tools provided to the administration to shift staff between agencies as well as expand call center hours. 

More than a week later, the lawmakers say they have heard nothing, not even an acknowledgement from Evers regarding the delays. 

“I’m disgusted that we’re at the mercy of an unresponsive administration,” Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls) said in the release. 

The legislators have sent another letter seeking a response from the governor. 

“Hundreds of constituents who followed the rules and have waited more than half a year are still waiting to hear from your administration,” the letter states.” These are real families, facing real crisis, and such is the case for Brittney Gitzlaff of Menomonee Falls. Due to the urgency of this situation, we expect you to reply as soon as possible.” 

“Like our constituents, we anxiously await your reply.”

As Empower Wisconsin reported earlier this month, Gitzlaff, a mother of three young children, says she filed her first Unemployment Insurance claim in mid-March, after the Evers administration ordered Wisconsin’s schools closed in advance of the COVID-19 pandemic. Gitzlaff, like a lot of parents, stayed home to take care of her young children, two of whom were forced to attend school virtually because of the governor’s stay-at-home order. 

Under emergency rules, workers who have to provide care to a loved one because of COVID-19 are eligible for unemployment benefits. 

At one point early on in the process, Gitzlaff said a DWD adjudicator called and asked her the ages of her children.

“He said, ‘Can’t your 8-year-old watch your 5-year-old and your baby (while you work)?” Gitzlaff recalled. 

Contacted last week, Gitzlaff said she still has heard nothing from DWD. 

Thousands waiting multiple months for their claims to clear are in the same boat. 

“If there’s something Governor Evers’ needs to answer all of these claims, he needs to tell us right away,” Knodl (R-Germantown) said. “Otherwise it’s just excuse after excuse and real people are left without the answers they deserve.”

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