Audit shows DWD took weeks to start processing claims while people continue to wait, ‘I’m at a loss’

MADISON, Wis. — An audit of the state unemployment insurance office shows the Department of Workforce Development sometimes waited weeks before acting on claims.

In a new report the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau found it took an average of 13 weeks to resolve claims, and the office was responsible for 11 of those 13 weeks.

In one instance auditors found someone waited 92 days for a payment on their claim. It took 84 days for DWD to request the information.

While the department brought in more adjudicators, from 175 in March to 563 by September, the audit found they worked just over three hours of overtime per week on average.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said the department should have required overtime from adjudicators, which it did in some cases. The report noted some adjudicators were told to work 10 hours of overtime a week.

“The lack of urgency to help the unemployed is inexcusable and unconscionable,” Vos said in a statement.

Samantha Frank, a mother of five in Portage, waited months for answers on her Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claim. When payments suddenly stopped, she appealed a rejection, and now she’s waiting for answers again.

“I’m at a loss,” she said. “I go on and check it every day. Sadly it’s kind of a routine where I go on to see if there’s any movement, and there’s not.”

She said her husband’s job doesn’t even cover a quarter of the bills the household has, and she worries about putting food on the table and keeping the lights on. Though Frank originally quit her job to take care of her kids after school shut down, she is planning to go back to work third shift.

“I don’t have a choice,” Frank said. “Right now it’s kind of do or don’t, and I don’t want my kids to lose out. They’ve already lost a lot. I know this year if it weren’t for a few families helping they would have no Christmas.”

Frank is grateful for the generosity of her community, but she wants people in state government to get her and others waiting the money they need.

That’s the advice of auditors too. In their recommendations to the department, they said to pay benefits in a timely manner and report back to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee by Jan. 15, 2021.

The department did not respond to a request for comment.