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Audit: Evers’ DWD fails to comply with federal law

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers’ dysfunctional Department of Workforce Development continues to fail Wisconsinites, according to a new state audit.

The nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau’s semiannual report on the Fraud, Waste, and Mismanagement Hotline finds “DWD had not complied with federal regulations because it did not resolve appeal decisions in a timely manner from June 2020 through May 2021.”

The report finds that, of the 3,243 decisions made on Unemployment Insurance claims appeals, only 10 percent were decided within a month. Only 17.5 percent were decided within 45 days.

“In addition, we also found that the average age of appeals outstanding increased from 12 days in March 2020 to 67 days in May 2021, when more than 14,500 appeals were awaiting a decision,” the audit states.

“This is just the latest in a long line of failures at Governor Evers’ Department of Workforce Development,” Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) said.  “People who are desperate for the benefits they deserve can’t get Evers’ bureaucrats to even pick up the phone, and when they do, they are rude and don’t respond promptly. It’s past time for the governor to take his agency to task start helping the people of the state.”

Auditors said the problems were consistent with the appeal delays that individuals reported to the hotline.

The Legislative Audit Bureau operates a toll-free hotline (1-877-FRAUD-17) that allows the public and individuals within state government to confidentially report alleged fraud, waste, and mismanagement. Callers may remain anonymous, and the Bureau is statutorily required to protect their identities even when other information is made public.

LAB’s hotline received a total of 61 complaints between Jan. 1 and June 30. Forty-five of the 61 hotline reports (74 percent) were state-related.

“The majority of such reports pertained to concerns about alleged agency mismanagement,” the reports states. The delays continue.

It’s just another black eye for an agency bruised by incompetence and mismanagement.

Last year, a LAB audit found DWD was answering just .05 percent of calls from desperate claimants between March and June, when hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites were forced out of work by the pandemic and Evers’ ill-conceived lockdowns.

At the same time, the administration has failed to track waste and fraud in the system. Wisconsin’s Republican congressional delegation has asked the U.S. Department of Labor Inspector General’s office to investigate cases of fraud at Evers’ DWD.

“For over a month, Republicans in the Congressional delegation have been waiting on Governor Evers to inform us what steps DWD has taken to prevent waste, fraud, and abuse of federal unemployment dollars,” said U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Allouez). “Today’s report that DWD isn’t in compliance with the most basic federal regulations doesn’t inspire any confidence in their ability to responsibly manage these funds.”

Read the full audit report here.

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