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What does clearing the backlog of unemployment claims mean?

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MADISON (WKOK) -- The Department of Workforce Development (DWD) says it has cleared its entire backlog of unemployment claims, but issues still remain for some people, and that doesn't mean everyone has received a paycheck.

Thousands of Wisconsinites have been waiting weeks, even months, for their unemployment claim to be processed after the DWD faced an unprecedented amount of applications when the pandemic began in March, creating a backlog.

But "clearing the backlog" doesn't mean DWD has resolved every case. New DWD Secretary-designee Amy Pechacek says that means if you filed for unemployment, you should have had some contact with the department.

Either your claim was approved, denied, or is still under review. That means some people are still waiting to hear back after initial contact.

"All of the claims have been assigned out to an adjudicator which means we are in line with (the number of claims) where we were this time last year, pre-pandemic," said Pechacek.

This week the agency had 5,000 people remaining in the backlog and it transferred them to the adjudication process, a waiting period still frustrating many.

"It's been a horrible experience for many of our neighbors in our communities because of COVID-19," Pechacek said. "I can commit to doing everything I can to make sure this doesn't happen again and will do my best in my time that I'm here."

Clearing the backlog took DWD more than nine months, even after the agency hired additional employees and hired a company to help answer phone calls.

Part of the reason for the backlog is because many filled out their application incorrectly, which Pechacek admits was confusing for some.

Heading into the New Year, the department is focusing on rewriting some of the questions on the application to make it easier to understand.

"Hopefully it will be straightforward so people invariably won't answer incorrectly to cause an eligibility hold when there really shouldn't be any to begin with."

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Emilee Fannon

Capital Bureau Chief

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