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Obtuse DHS offers coping tips for ‘disrupted workers’

Empower Wisconsin | July 15, 2020

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON  — For the tens of thousands of out-of-work Wisconsinites caught in the state Department of Workforce Development’s abysmal Unemployment Insurance claims system, it must be comforting to know that the state Department of Health Services is offering “Coping tips.” 

Of course, DHS is the same Evers administration agency that ordered the extended lockdown, a health edict that drove hundreds of thousands of “nonessential” workers to the unemployment line. When they filed their claims, many got stuck in a morass of bureaucratic incompetence that has deprived them of income for months.

While some have been evicted, lost their homes or have been forced to exhaust their life savings, state health officials want them to know that they’ve developed five strategies for “disrupted workers and their families.”

“Altered family routines. New financial pressures. Worry for yourself and your loved ones. Facing uncertainty at work, interrupted employment, or the increased risks that come with working an essential job during a pandemic. There is no doubt that COVID-19 is creating strain for people throughout Wisconsin,” DHS, the Captain Obvious of state agencies, notes on its webpage. 

The good folks at Health Services know that adapting to such changes can be stressful, but with “self-care, the support of your loved ones, and a few healthy coping strategies, you can manage and reduce the pressure you may feel at work or at home.”

“I’m 60 years old. This has devastated me,” Carol Glupker of Milwaukee recently told Wisconsin Spotlight. She’s approaching four months unemployed, four months of unanswered claims from DWD, which has clearly botched her case. “How do you recoup that loss when you’re 60 years old?”

Well, DHS insists the first step is to “know it’s okay.”

“It’s normal to feel upset and afraid when life changes in dramatic ways. Don’t judge your actions and emotions during times of stress too harshly,” the agency notes in its coping tips.

Disrupted workers should also “stick to a routine.”

“Create a schedule for working, relaxing, physical activity, and connecting with loved ones that you and your family can rely on.”

And don’t forget to “prioritize self-care”

“Getting adequate rest and exercise, eating healthy foods, and maintaining your social connections can help you take better care of yourself and others,” DHS suggests.

Glupker said her dangerously high blood pressure recently necessitated a trip to the ER. The doctors put her on blood pressure meds, which she can’t afford because she’s gone nearly four months without the unemployment benefits she’s owed.

“Now I’m going to have to go on high blood pressure medicine because I can’t sleep at night,” she told Wisconsin Spotlight.

DHS wants Glupker and other disrupted workers like her to know that they should “live with purpose.”

“Disruptions in your work and home life can leave you floundering. Finding new ways to stay active and make contributions in your life and community can help reduce anxiety,” DHS recommends.

Above all, the agency advises to “Ask for the help you need.”

Glupker has. When DWD refused to answer her calls, she reached out to Gov. Tony Evers’ office. Someone there said he would check into her problems. Glupker hasn’t heard back.

“Me, as an individual, I live by myself. I have no money coming in,” Glupker said. “I have depleted all of my savings account, all my 401(k). I have nothing left anymore.”

It’s hard to cope when you’ve lost just about everything you’ve worked for because the government took away your job then reneged on its promises.

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