DWD Unemployment Call Center Experiencing Unprecedented Call Volume and Urging People to Apply Online

The Department of Workforce Development (DWD) is continuing to urge people to file for unemployment benefits on DWD’s website at dwd.wisconsin.gov/uiben/apply/. The online application process is faster and easier than applying over the phone. Over 98% of the people who have applied through the DWD website have been able to successfully start, complete, and file their claim for unemployment benefits.

DWD is encouraging people to apply online so that the phone lines are open for people who have been specifically instructed to call DWD or for those people who do not have access to a computer or internet.

During the week of March 22, 2020, DWD’s Unemployment Insurance Division (UI) received more than 1.5 million calls, an increase of 6,208% over the busiest weekly call volume. Last Thursday alone, UI received 400,000 calls between 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., at times receiving 160 calls per second. The unprecedented number of calls overloaded the system as it was not built to handle this type of call volume.

DWD is diligently working to increase both staff and technology capacity. The department has increased the number of calls UI is able to send and receive, allowing for 690 simultaneous calls, which is up from the 450 simultaneous calls it was previously able to handle.

Additionally, DWD has increased its staff at the UI call center. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, UI call center consisted of 57 employees. Last week, DWD has temporarily added 35 staff members to help with the call volume, totaling 92 call center workers. DWD has now pulled, and is currently training, 40 staff members from other DWD divisions to assist the call center, and DWD would like to hire an additional 80 staff workers to triage calls for unemployment.

DWD wants to remind the public that the week a person becomes unemployed, that person should file an application for unemployment benefits online. For more information, instructional videos, and to apply, please visit https://dwd.wisconsin.gov/uiben/apply/.