Audit Analyzes Wisconsin DWD’s Processing of Unemployment Claims

Posted on 12-17-2020

On Monday, December 14th, the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) released its review of the Department of Workforce Development’s (DWD’s) processing of certain Unemployment Insurance (UI) claims. Based on its analysis of a statistically significant random sample of case files, LAB determined that time elapsed during claims processing because DWD had not resolved issues even though it had the information to do so and because DWD had not requested information it needed from individuals and employers.

As of October 10, 2020, LAB found that DWD had paid 493,504 of the 662,731 individuals (74.5 percent) who had filed initial claims for regular UI benefits since March 15, 2020. The remaining individuals had not been paid because, for example, DWD had denied their claims or had not yet resolved them.

LAB found 53.2 percent of initial claims for regular UI benefits were paid by DWD in two calendar weeks or less, but it took more than five weeks to pay 24.7 percent of them. LAB noted that the average amount of time that DWD took to pay claims declined considerably from March 2020 to August 2020.

DWD placed 77.6 percent of initial claims filed from March 15, 2020, through October 10, 2020, into adjudication in order to determine whether individuals are statutorily eligible to receive UI benefits. Although DWD increased the number of adjudicators from 175 during the week of March 15, 2020, to 563 during the week of September 20, 2020, LAB found 96,623 individuals still had claims in adjudication as of October 10, 2020.

To determine how DWD processed initial claims, LAB reviewed the case files of 268 individuals who filed initial claims for regular UI benefits from March 15, 2020, through April 11, 2020, but who had not been paid as of June 20, 2020. As of November 2020, DWD had resolved the initial claims of 250 of these 268 individuals. Based on its file review, LAB found DWD was responsible for 11.0 of the 13.0 weeks (84.6 percent) that it took, on average, to resolve the initial claims of the 250 individuals.

“The audit confirms what the flood of phone calls to legislative offices suggested – DWD is failing to provide the service government is supposed to provide for a substantial number of claimants,” said Representative Kerkman (R-Salem Lakes). “The department was overwhelmed from the very beginning of the Governor’s stay-at-home order – why on earth would they wait until May to increase staffing? This is disturbing and unacceptable.” 

LAB also found 950 instances where DWD was responsible for the elapsed time while it processed the initial claims for the 250 individuals it sampled. Among those instances, the most common was that DWD had not resolved issues even though it had the information to resolve those issues, accounting for an average of 5.5 weeks elapsed. Other common instances that resulted in delays included DWD failing to request information from individuals, accounting for an average of 6.5 weeks elapsed, and DWD not requesting the information necessary from employers, accounting for an average of 8.5 weeks elapsed.

For More Information, Contact: Senator Cowles ~ 800.334.1465, Representative Kerkman ~ 888.529.0061