As indicated by the Department through its new initial claims data, initial unemployment claims are already up 20x from the number of claims being filed last year.

Any one who has not filed an unemployment claim recently should review or gather the following information.

First, a 2018 post has important tips for how to file an unemployment claim. Here is a PDF of that post for easy printing. Do and read everything in this post (outside of job searches — see below).

Second, the job search information in this post is unnecessary at the moment, given the widespread/societal job losses going on at the moment. The sudden halt on entire economic sectors is making job searching utterly futile outside of health care and transportation/shipping. Kudos to state leaders for recognizing that job searching in these times is completely unnecessary.

Third, the Department’s job search training and registration requirements remain solidly in place. And, like the on-line claims process, all of these can ONLY be done on-line and are ONLY in English. If you have limited Internet access, have trouble with technology, or are not the best with navigating an English-only system with specific legal requirements and mandates, make the trip to a DWD job center location near you to get help. Despite the pandemic, these centers are remaining open because of these requirements.

Note: The federal legislation passed this previous week mandates that states have at least two mechanisms for filing unemployment claims to receive the additional funds being made available for unemployment administration and benefits in that legislation. So, at some point, the Department may need to re-activate its phone system for filing unemployment benefits.

Fourth, as noted previously, print your pay stubs NOW. The Department will need to verify your wages with your employer. But, with employers shutting down and having to deal with mass layoffs, many will find it difficult if not impossible to provide all of the information being requested by the Department. And, as the Department has yet to waive or extend any deadlines or response/appeal dates for employers and employees, you may need to provide information about your work history with your employer yourself.

Again, the Department will want specific information about your pay and hours going back a year or more. Given that many employers may not be around in a month, do not think that your wage and hour information will be available from those employers when the Department needs it. Get your wage and hours information now as best you can and get that information going back to the start of 2019 and even into 2018 if you can.

Fifth, those employers who still have some work going on and want to avoid mass layoffs should immediately inquire with the Department about its work-share program. In return for maintaining benefits for employees, an employer can keep workers employed at reduced hours. The reduced pay is subsidized with unemployment benefits covering the lost hours of work. The application form spells out the requirements for this program on the third page. For more information or to apply, call the employer contact number at the Department: 608-261-6700.

Finally, the Unemployment Compensation Appeals Clinic remains open and is working on how to handle a sky-rocketing number of cases. To schedule an appointment, call 211 to connect to the United Way and explain that you are looking for unemployment assistance.