State rolls out revised unemployment insurance application website

    "Unemployment Office" (Bytemarks | Flickr CC BY 2.0)

    People applying for or collecting unemployment insurance (UI) will encounter a new look on the state’s website for UI claims starting Wednesday.

    The Department of Workforce Development (DWD) says that the website overhaul makes the site easier to use and easier to understand. It also is mobile-friendly, according to the agency.

    The changes allow people with UI claims to upload required documents electronically; previously, paperwork would have to be mailed or faxed. It includes a message center to allow them to contact claims specialists and adjudicators who are reviewing claims to establish if the applicants qualify.

    Along with the website upgrades, DWD has been rewriting UI application documents and other materials in plain language so they are easier to understand.

    The state’s UI system has come under a spotlight in the last year as the COVID-19 pandemic led to a surge of hundreds of thousands of layoffs and unemployment claims. In the process, tens of thousands of applicants reported inordinate delays in their applications. The Legislative Audit Bureau issued three reports critical of DWD’s handling of the process, and Gov. Tony Evers fired DWD Secretary Caleb Frostman over the resulting backlog.

    According to DWD’s secretary-designee, Amy Pechacek, one reason for the backlog was the complexity of the application. Claim approvals were delayed when applicants confused by questions gave incorrect answers, leading to investigations of their claims. The DWD’s plain language updates are intended to prevent such errors, Pechacek says, and additional revisions are planned as well.

    Erik Gunn
    Senior Reporter Erik Gunn reports and writes on work and the economy, along with related subjects, for the Wisconsin Examiner. He spent 24 years as a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine, Isthmus, The Progressive, BNA Inc., and other publications, winning awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, beat coverage, business writing, and commentary. An East Coast native, he previously covered labor for The Milwaukee Journal after reporting for newspapers in upstate New York and northern Illinois. He's a graduate of Beloit College (English Comp.) and the Columbia School of Journalism. Off hours he is the Examiner's resident Springsteen and Jackson Browne fanboy and model railroad nerd.