Yesterday, the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) released the total number of new applications, weekly claims, and amount distributed for unemployment benefits for the time period of March 15 to April 6, 2020.
Between March 15 and April 6, 2020, the total number of new applications submitted for unemployment benefits was 313,068, with weekly claims reaching 589,616. The total amount in unemployment benefits distributed equaled $68,759,104.
By comparison, during the same period in 2019, the total number of new applications paled in comparison, 17,748, with weekly claims of 155,148. The total amount of unemployment benefits during this period was $39,597,111.
“The fact that initial claims ballooned by more than 1600% illustrates the unprecedented nature of this pandemic and its effect on our economy,” Secretary Caleb Frostman said. “The IT infrastructure of the UI division was not adequately modernized coming out of the Great Recession, which has forced DWD’s staff to work overtime, nights, and weekends to process unemployment claims to support out-of-work Wisconsinites. We are confident that our accelerated and expanded hiring, along with real-time telecom and IT improvements will help alleviate claimant backlogs.”
On top of the measures in additional staffing and technology, DWD is developing the application for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), with the goal of taking the first applications the week of April 21, 2020. PUA was established by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that was signed into law on March 27, 2020. It temporarily expands UI eligibility to those who are otherwise ineligible for state UI benefits, including those who are self-employed, free lancers, independent contractors, and part-time workers impacted by COVID-19. Workers will be eligible for retroactive benefits (as far back as Feb. 2, 2020) and can receive benefits for up to 39 weeks.
The CARES Act also created the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program, which provides an additional $600 per week through July 31, 2020 to those who are eligible for UI and PUA benefits. Wisconsin hopes to be ready to start making these payments the week of April 26, 2020.