‘Let’s just get it done’: Evers introduces plan to fix unemployment system

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MADISON, Wis. (WFRV) – After his State of the State address Gov. Tony Evers has signed an executive order and introduced his plan to fix Wisconsin’s unemployment system.

Gov. Evers signed Executive Order #103 calling a special session of the Legislature at noon on Jan. 19, to fix and modernize the state’s unemployment system. The governor also introduced his plan, LRB-1312. 

“I’m announcing today I will be calling a special session of the Legislature to take up a plan to modernize our unemployment system and help ensure nothing like this happens to the people of Wisconsin again. We know that replacing this system will take years—that’s why it should’ve been done sooner, but it’s also why we now have not another moment to waste. No politics, no posturing, send me the bill and let’s just get it done,” Gov. Evers says in his State of the State address.

Since the start of the pandemic, there has been an increase in unemployment claims, exceeding the number of claims even during the Great Recession.

According to a release, from 2016 through 2019, the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) handled 7.2 million claims. Since March, the DWD has received 8.8 million claims, 1.6 million more claims than the four previous years combined.

The Department increased staffing in the Unemployment Insurance Division from about 500 employees to 1,800 employees to answer phone calls, process claims, and follow up with individuals who applied for benefits.

During this time the DWD paid nearly 600,000 claimants more than $4.6 billion in unemployment insurance benefits. 

According to a release, Gov. Evers’ plan, LRB-1312/LRB-1430, appropriates over $5.3 million so that the DWD can start immediately working toward modernizing the UI system, without having to wait for the conclusion of the budget process.

The proposed investment would total approximately $90 million over 10 years toward modernizing the unemployment system and improving the system’s ability to respond to future recessions.

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