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State says it has cleared unemployment backlog, issues remain

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Unemployment claim form. File photo.

MADISON (WKOW) -- The Department of Workforce Development says that it has cleared its entire backlog of unemployment claims, but issues still remain for some people.

The announcement came in a press release from the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) sent Wednesday morning.

"Since the start of the pandemic, our top priority at DWD has been ensuring that all eligible unemployment claims in Wisconsin are paid as quickly as possible," said DWD Secretary-designee Amy Pechacek. "Today, I am proud to say we have reached our goal to clear the backlog of claims."

Back in September, almost 100,000 Wisconsinites had pending unemployment insurance claims, DWD said. As of last week Tuesday, 22,100 had waited at least three weeks for a decision on their original claim.

The news of the cleared backlog, while no doubt welcomed by those whose claims the agency approved, will come as little consolation to others still waiting for their claims on appeal.

When a claim for unemployment is denied, the applicant can appeal the decision. Multiple people awaiting an appeal have described the process to 27 News in exasperated terms.

Some have told 27 News their case has been in adjudication for months and they are unable to get help from DWD, describing poor communication from the agency.

Senator Devin Lemahieu says unemployment issues in Wisconsin have not been fixed and signaled Pechacek faces an uphill battle to be confirmed by the State Senate.

"DWD claiming to have 'cleared the backlog' is completely disingenuous. The reality is, thousands of people's claims were simply shifted to DWD's broken adjudication process, and struggling families are still left waiting. If this is what we can expect from Evers' new political appointee, it will be difficult to gain consensus towards confirming her," he said in a statement to 27 News.

The department did make great strides toward reducing that backlog in October when it signed a partnership with Google. The tech giant agreed to provide cloud computing services that greatly increased DWD's ability to process claims.

27 News reviewed the terms of the state's deal with Google. The contracts stipulated that DWD would turn over identifying information to the tech company, including social security numbers, so long as the company did not use the data for anything other than assisting with unemployment claims.

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JT Cestkowski

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