Wisconsin upgrades unemployment claims system

MADISON, Wis. (WKBT) — Wisconsin’s Department of Workforce Development will go live tonight with a new online system for claiming unemployment insurance benefits.

According to DWD, the upgrade will offer better functionality and new features including a secure document upload, a message center for direct communication from claims specialists and adjudicators, text notifications, and a mobile friendly design.

“This is all about making the process easier,” DWD Secretary-designee Amy Pechacek said. “The ability to upload certain documents instead of mailing or faxing, a message center where claims specialists and adjudicators can share and request information directly through the portal—these are critical upgrades.”

DWD is also rolling out another phase of its plain language project, an effort to make Wisconsin’s often-complex unemployment insurance application easier to understand and navigate.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we know that of the hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites who applied for unemployment benefits, many had to wait longer than necessary because an incorrectly answered question triggered an investigation into their eligibility,” Pechacek said. “These important updates will not only benefit our customers, but also improve our operations.”

The DWD is also making the first payments to Wisconsinites under the federal extension of pandemic unemployment assistance — known as PUA — which was extended March 11 with the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act, the most recent federal COVID-19 relief law.

An estimated 17,200 people across Wisconsin have been waiting for the new extension payments to begin. The state’s outdated unemployment insurance computer system delayed implementation of the PUA extensions as programmers worked to deploy each new federal program and extension. DWD will begin making new PUA payments on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, DWD will begin making ARPA extension payments under another federal program called Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, also known as PEUC. About 7,400 people are estimated to qualify for additional PEUC benefit payments under the ARPA extension passed earlier this month.