Audit finds Wisconsin Dept. of Workforce Development to blame for delays in unemployment payments

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development is largely to blame for delays in unemployment payments according to a new report from the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau.

This is the third audit of The DWD’s unemployment system since the pandemic started and just like the last two, it points to massive failings within the system.

“It’s been frustrating and very overwhelming and it’s just, man,” said Faith White, who has been waiting for unemployment since September.

White worked for Milwaukee Public Schools but when COVID-19 hit, found herself out of a job. She says she’s borrowing money from family to get by.

“I worked hard and that’s my money,” White said. “Why do I have to fight and suffer to get my own money.”

White is one of about 60,200 people waiting. A new Legislative Audit Bureau report 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.”

In some cases, the audit found The DWD waited weeks to even request needed information from claimants and employers.

“Who was watching these people?” asked Rep. Samantha Kerkman (R-Salem Lakes). “There are close to 600 employees, who are they reporting to?”

Rep. Kerkman sits on the joint legislative audit committee and plans to ask DWD officials those questions at a hearing Wednesday.

“I’m told by the end of the year all the 96,000 claims are going to be paid and I’m curious to ask Wednesday how that is going to happen when that doesn’t seem feasible,” Rep. Kerkman said.

The audit was conducted using data from March 15 through October 10. On November 24, DWD Transition Director Amy Pechacek told CBS 58 Investigates a partnership with google cloud meant 21,000 people in the backlog would get answers that week.

It’s been two weeks and the backlog has only decreased by about 9,900.

White, meanwhile, says she is struggling. Living alone during the pandemic because of a preexisting condition, unable to even celebrate Christmas.

“Not being able to actually be with my children and my grandchildren and not being able to at least buy them a gift, it’s been hard,” Whtie said. “It’s depressing.”

CBS 58 Investigates asked the DWD for comment, they didn’t return calls or emails.

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