Audit: Less than 1% of calls to DWD answered between March and June

Coronavirus

(WFRV) – An audit of the Department of Workforce Development shows only 0.5% of calls by Wisconsinites seeking assistance were answered between March and June.

The audit, released by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau, shows 41.1 million calls were made to the DWD call centers. Of those, 38.3 million – 93.3% – were blocked or received busy signals.

Just over 6% were abandoned by callers before they had the chance to speak with someone at DWD.

This audit comes just a week after Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers requested and received a resignation from DWD Secretary Caleb Frostman as many across Wisconsin continue to wait for unemployment assistance.

From March 15 to July 31, the audit found DWD’s expenditures for staff at its three call centers totaled $9.3 million. Over the same time frame, DWD increased its call center staff from 90 members to 188.

LAB reports in their audit that only 6.6% of all initial claims filed from April 26 to August 22 were done by people calling. Because of that, the report says, “the extent to which individuals were unable to speak with the call centers explains only one reason why some individuals did not receive unemployment benefits in a timely manner.”

During his time as DWD secretary, Frostman said the issues primarily had to do with an outdated system from the 1970s and the need to train individuals to boost staffing.

Republicans in the Legislature sharply criticized the administration for the issue.

The report was reported to the Joint Audit Committee led by Sen. Rober Cowles (R – Green Bay) and Rep. Samantha Kerkman (R – Salem Lakes). “The spike in calls and initial claims that preceded the Governor’s shutdown was a clear forecast of the tsunami of calls and claims that DWD should have absolutely been able to expect when the stay-at-home order was issued,” Kerkman said in a release, according to affiliate WDJT. “This was an unprecedented event, granted, but the anguish and unanswered questions of hundreds of thousands unemployed Wisconsin workers could have been mitigated had the Department acted quickly to adapt to a known need.”

Read the full report below:

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