DWD says it has tripled unemployment staff, more claims being processed

MADISON -- The Department of Workforce Development (DWD) announced on Wednesday, July 8 that is has significantly added staff -- and that has markedly improved its customer service to unemployment insurance (UI) claimants, increased the rate at which UI-related calls are answered and the number of outbound/scheduled calls that are made, and is steadily processing and adjudicating more claims each week.

A news release from the DWD highlights how changes have been made:

Increased Staff

Combining internal transfers, intergovernmental transfers, new hires, and contracted vendors, DWD has more than tripled the total number of UI resources from roughly 500 people as of March 14 to more than 1,700 as of July 7.

Increased Call Center Hours

With the additional staff, the Department has again expanded its help center hours to 6:15 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. The help center will also now be available Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Staff continue to answer any remaining calls in the queue that come in before the closing time.

Increased the Number of Calls Answered

In 11 weeks (May 20 to July 3, 2020), DWD and its vendors answered 240,864 calls. The number of calls answered the week of June 29 was 60% more compared to the calls answered the week of June 1

Moreover, DWD has increased the rate at which it can answer calls. Regularly, the benefit call center is answering almost 70% of the unique phone numbers that it receives each day.  This is a significant increase compared to the 4% of unique calls received during the last weeks of May. For context, DWD received more than 155,600 calls for the week ending June 29 alone.

Increased Claims Processed

With the addition of new staff, DWD is also processing and resolving more claims. The total number of weekly UI claims received from March 15 to July 4, 2020 is nearly 4 million (3,969,830). Of that number, more than 3.4 million (86.67%) have been resolved (paid or denied). The remaining claims in process (528,999; 13.33%) are those awaiting wage verification, adjudication, or similar investigations.

When someone applies for UI benefits, DWD must investigate any and all issues from all employers the claimant worked for over the last 18 months unless the separation was due to a layoff from a lack of work.

Beyond the first application, issues that arise when weekly claims are filed must also be resolved. When there is an eligibility issue on a claim, it must go through adjudication (i.e. an investigation). An adjudicator is responsible for the investigation of the eligibility issue. Adjudicators are specialized positions that typically require four weeks of training.