MADISON, Wis. — A state lawmaker is asking Gov. Tony Evers to do what is necessary to fix the flawed unemployment insurance situation in Wisconsin.

Stat Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, said in a statement that after the State Supreme Court struck down Evers’ stay-at-home order, the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) wasted no time trying to blame the ruling for their persistent woes in trying to process unemployment claims. Earlier this week, it was reported that one in three claims is unpaid, Nygren said.

“Governor Evers, the buck stops with you,” said Nygren, co-chairman of the Joint Committee on Finance. “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. We have constituents that have been waiting over 60 days for benefits. Enough is enough. We need more action and less time passing blame.”

After the Supreme Court ruling, DWD updated its FAQs (frequently asked questions) to blame the court ruling for putting individuals in adjudication. Interestingly, DWD did not do the same when Gov. Evers “turned the dial” to allow certain businesses to open with Emergency Order No. 34, Nygren said. 

Nygren sought answers from the Legislative Reference Bureau. An attorney from that department replied in a memo.

“The ... legal memo confirms DWD’s misinterpretation and that the court ruling did not directly affect DWD,” Nygren said.  According to the Legislative Reference Bureau, “both the supreme court’s ruling and the effect of a business being allowed to reopen under Emergency Order No. 34 could have resulted in an employer reopening and recalling employees.”

State Sen. Dave Hansen, in his own statement, said Nygren and Republicans are to blame because of their past decisions and obstacles they put in place regarding collecting unemployment insurance benefits.

“After years of doing everything possible to make it more difficult, time-consuming and frustrating to apply for unemployment insurance benefits, Rep. Nygren and his fellow Republicans are exposing themselves as the hypocrites they are,” Hansen said. “If they really cared about workers, instead of trying to shift the blame for chaos they’ve caused they would work with Governor Evers to remove the obstacles they put in place so people can get the benefits they’ve earned in a timely manner.”

This week the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that DWD still has not extended call center hours even though one in every three claims have gone unpaid. Nygren is again calling for DWD to extend call center hours. As of Thursday morning, DWD’s website continues shows call center hours from 7:35 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. even though DWD claimed it would extend hours from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“Even if this extension occurs, it is not enough,” Nygren said. “The call center should be open seven days a week with extended hours until the backlog is eliminated.”

Many callers to unemployment can’t even get tot he queue to be put on hold.

Nygren is also calling on DWD to post on its website daily updates on all backlogged claims, the reasons the claims are in pending status and how many calls DWD takes and how many callers cannot get through. More transparency may lead to better decisions to responsibly expedite these claims.

“It does not take a new IT system to be transparent or to add call center hours,” he said.