Wisconsin Workforce Development head quits at Evers’ request over claims backlog for 100,000 people

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MADISON, Wis. (WKBT) — Caleb Frostman, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development has resigned, at Gov. Tony Evers’ request, after failing to fix a backlog of unemployment benefit claims from nearly 100,000 people.
Evers has been enduring intense criticism for months over Frostman’s inability to guide the DWD in cutting the backlog, the governor’s office said. The claims began piling up after the coronavirus pandemic shut down the state and national economy.
More than 713,500 weekly claims from nearly 100,000 people were still in process as of Saturday, according to department data.
The state’s unemployment rate in August stood at 6.2%, compared with 8.4% nationally.
States nationwide have been facing similar claim snags as the pandemic left millions unemployed amid shutdowns aimed at slowing the virus’ spread. Washington state even called in the National Guard to help process applications.
In the Badger State, more than 130 Department of Workforce Development employees have been reassigned to handle claims, Evers said.
That brings the total number of employees working on claims forms to 1,500, up from 600.
The agency’s technology is antiquated, Evers said, and Republicans created eligibility restrictions that have slowed processing.
But the governor said he had to make a change at the top of the department.
“People across our state are struggling to make ends meet,” Evers said. “We have continued to add additional resources to support the DWD, but it is clear we must have change if we are going to address these problems to get folks their benefits faster.”
Messages left at the department seeking comment from Frostman or other officials weren’t immediately returned.
Frostman led the Door County Economic Development Corp. before winning an open seat in the state Senate in a special election in June 2018. He lost the seat in the November 2018 general election.
Evers appointed him DWD secretary in January 2019.
Department of Corrections Deputy Secretary Amy Pechacek will lead the department until Evers appoints a replacement.