Empower Wisconsin | July 22, 2020
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — In a form letter to out-of-work Wisconsinites, Gov. Tony Evers assures his administration is doing “everything we can” to process the 100,000-plus backlog of Unemployment Insurance claims piling up at his dysfunctional Department of Workforce Development.
At a recent media briefing to update the status of Wisconsin’s COVID-19 response, a reporter asked Maj. General Paul Knapp, adjutant general of the Wisconsin Army National Guard, whether Evers had called on Guard members to assist at DWD.
“As of yet, we have not been asked to help process claims,” Knapp said. “Like any other request from other state agencies we’d have no compunction about accepting those and helping to our best ability.”
Some 7,700 members serve in Wisconsin’s National Guard, including headquarter staff in Madison. While the Guard conjures up images of soldiers engaged in military operations or disaster relief, members have assisted in various support roles, including, most notably, helping out during Wisconsin’s spring elections.
As Empower Wisconsin has reported, the governor (the Wisconsin National Guard’s commander-in-chief) reluctantly called up the National Guard after Madison’s violent riots last month, but sources say the Democrat quickly sent the citizen-soldiers home. Democrat-led Milwaukee and Green Bay, unlike other Wisconsin communities, made very little use of the Guard during the April elections. The failure to do so appears to have, at least in part, resulted in significantly fewer voting locations.
There’s nothing novel about calling on the Guard to assist with unemployment claims in these unprecedented times of pandemic. Washington state did so last month. About 50 National Guard members were expected to undergo two days of training to assist the state’s Employment Security Department.
State Sen. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) raised the question in a column published this week at Empower Wisconsin. In it, he asserts Evers has failed to lead his agency out of the Unemployment Insurance debacle.
An Evers’ spokeswoman did not return Empower Wisconsin’s request for comment.
Cover photo courtesy USA Today Network