State lawmaker says he plans to introduce legislation to expand DWD call center hours

NOW: State lawmaker says he plans to introduce legislation to expand DWD call center hours

MADISON (CBS 58) -- A state senator says he plans to introduce legislation that would require the Department of Workforce Development to expand call center hours to seven days a week until claims have caught up.

"This is the least the agency can do to ensure people get the help that they need during these difficult times," said Republican Senator Chris Kapenga of Delafield. 

His office described the handling of the ongoing backlog of unemployment claims as a continued failure of Governor Evers' administration. 

A spokesperson for the Department of Workforce Development said the department has expanded call center hours twice since the beginning of the pandemic, with hours now Monday through Friday from 6:15 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday from 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. 

"It is important to note that longer call hours do not necessarily equate to more claims resolved, which is the ultimate goal. To clear our outstanding case load, we have added 374 adjudication staff (from 174 to 548) to help resolve claims faster, on which we are seeing solid progress," said Ben Jedd, Communications Director for the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. 

Jedd said staff does not process claims on Sundays because that day is reserved mainly for weekly claim taking and preparing files for processing for payment. 

"The fact remains with our IT infrastructure as it is, overnight "batch" processing must occur for UI payments to be made. When the batch process is running each night, the online mainframe application is not available for making adjustments/corrections to the claims. Batch processing is required to calculate, process and record payment amounts for claims and generate files for bank processing so that the payments can be deposited into a claimant's bank accounts or issued to debit cards." Jedd said. 

According to the DWD, the total number of weekly unemployment insurance claims received from March 15 to July 4 is nearly four million. Of that, more than 3.4 million have been resolved, either paid or denied. The remaining claims are awaiting wage verification, adjudication, or similar investigations, according to DWD. 

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