Empower Wisconsin | May 27, 2020
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers’ Department of Workforce Development has stumbled and bumbled its way through its response to the COVID-19 crisis, long leaving hundreds of thousands of workers displaced by Evers administration lockdowns — without unemployment benefits and hope.
So, just hours before a hot seat legislative committee hearing, Democrats are blaming Republicans for the debacle at DWD.
As Wisconsin Spotlight and Empower Wisconsin have reported, the nightmarish stories of jobless Wisconsinites like Amanda Worley have been far too common. Worley, an out-of-work waitress from Green Bay, spent nearly 10 weeks waiting for unemployment benefits. She, like so many others, spent hours hearing busy signals or on hold calling into a dysfunctional Unemployment Insurance division call center. Some desperate claimants would wait on hold much of the day only to be disconnected at 3:30 p.m., when DWD offices closed for the day.
By the time Worley’s benefits were approved and she received her first unemployment check, the restaurant where she worked was forced out of business. Evers’ pandemic lockdown of “nonessential” businesses claimed another economic victim.
As the Senate Labor and Regulatory Reform Committee hearing today takes testimony on DWD’s many failures, Team Evers and fellow Dems are trying to get ahead of the expected rough day. They’re claiming Republicans, who have controlled the Legislature for nearly a decade, and former Republican Gov. Scott Walker, are the cause of the problems with the claims system. They say legislative reforms over the period left the overwhelmed system incapable of handling a flood of applications and claims.
“To deny their role in the pain their changes are now causing thousands of Wisconsin workers is not only dishonest, but it is part of their willful effort to undermine Gov. Evers and people’s faith in their government,” state Sen. Dave Hansen, known for being a dishonest partisan, said in a statement.
Bull, said Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette), who has been one of the more vocal critics of the administration for its failings in filling unemployment claims during the crisis.
“Governor Evers, the buck stops with you. DWD needs to spend more time working to find ways to speed up the claims process and less time making excuses for their inability to effectively process unemployment claims,” Nygren said in a press release. “We have constituents that have been waiting over 60 days for benefits. Enough is enough. We need more action and less time passing blame.”