DWD announced cleared backlog, new leadership

MADISON, Wis. — The unemployment backlog is cleared, according to the Department of Workforce Development.

This doesn’t mean everyone has gotten paid – but the unemployment insurance division says levels are back to those it saw before the pandemic.

As of Wednesday, the department also has a new secretary-designee, Amy Pechacek, who had been overseeing the department for months.

“It’s been a process,” she said. “I’ve spent a lot of time originally listening to people about what’s working, what’s not working, what do we need to do to be able to get through this, and thankfully I have a very strong team at DWD that’s helping.”

Since September, the number of people waiting more than 21 days for their claim to process went from 100,000 to 5,000, now waiting in adjudication. That’s a level similar to December 2019 before the pandemic more than quadrupled the DWD’S yearly workload.

“Certainly a lot of people have had to wait too long to get benefit determinations or to receive the assistance they need during these unprecedented times,” Pechacek said.

Part of what helped knock the list down was a partnership with Google Cloud.

“We had a lot of backend manual processes that required people to do data entry,” Pachacek said. “It took a long time. We were able to get some of those automations which are in process now which will just help continue the workflow efficiencies going forward.”

She’s making other changes too.

DWD found many people faced problems because of a complicated, legalese-filled application. The department has now updated it to use plain language.

Pachacek said they’re working on a way to allow documents to be uploaded online rather than mailed or faxed, and they are going to request money from the state legislature to update their computer systems, which struggled to take on the pandemic-related unemployment programs and the massive increase in claims.

That new system couldn’t come fast enough. There are more pandemic unemployment programs that are coming – and the qualifications are different than programs that came from the CARES Act. Pachacek said depending on how complicated they are, that could be challenging on the old system.