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As DWD boosts operations, GOP want Evers to use CARES Act dollars for those waiting on claims

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) – The Department of Workforce Development says it has tripled the size of its staff since the start of the pandemic but state Republicans say more needs to be done to address the backlog of unfulfilled unemployment claims.

Republicans in a news conference said they are calling on Governor Evers to use federal CARES Act funding to make direct payments or bridge loans to people whose unemployment claims have not been processed, some waiting several months with little to no progress.

“It’s not acceptable to make people wait six months to get the benefits they’re entitled to,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R – Rochester) said in a news conference in Oak Creek. “Here’s another idea to help over 100,000 people to help people make sure they don’t get that foreclosure, they don’t lose their house to an eviction.”

During simultaneous news conferences around the state, Assembly GOP members emphasized how their offices have received calls daily from people who face difficulty having their unemployment claims being processed.

Republicans have criticized the Evers administration’s handling of the situation, particularly putting DWD under intense scrutiny.

The agency announced that it has tripled its staff since the start of the pandemic from about 500 staff members to 1,700 people now. On top of that, hours at the agency have been expanded. That effort has helped accelerate the process of taking in calls and processing claims, particularly those in the adjudication process.

“At this point we’re close to being fully staffed so we hope the folks we’ve brought on board and spent the time and energy training we’ll continue to see gradual growth,” DWD Secretary Caleb Frostman told CBS 58 in an interview. “And therefore productivity to benefit claimants throughout Wisconsin.”

Frostman said that the agency has been working with a system that is outdated and should be addressed to avoid future situations like the current one. The DWD secretary said the current projection to return to what is considered normal operations and processing times will be sometime between August and October. He added the agency is determined to get through every claim as quickly as possible.

“The best advice we can give is to continue to file your weekly claims because if you are eligible you’ll get every dollar you’re entitled to,” Frostman said.

CBS 58 reached out to Governor Evers’ office for comment but did not immediately hear back. The governor has the power and discretion to distribute CARES Act funding.

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