Unemployment claim-filing is up, way up.

Initial Claim-filing data

          2020      2019    ratio
w/e 03/14   5,698   5,587   1.0
w/e 03/21  69,342   5,216   13.3
w/e 03/28 115,679   5,640   20.5
w/e 04/04 103,226   5,173   20.0
w/e 04/11  65,654   4,619   14.2
w/e 04/18  56,038   4,624   12.1
w/e 04/25  48,630   4,570   10.6
w/e 05/02  39,278   4,146   9.5
w/e 05/09  35,134   4,026   8.7

Source: https://dwd.wisconsin.gov/covid19/public/ui-stats.htm

For the week ending May 16th, initial claims filed on Sunday alone (4,135) were more than all the claims filed the equivalent, entire week in 2019 (3,460). So, even as the trend in new claims is slowing, the numbers are still overwhelming.

Furthermore, this data only includes claims for regular unemployment benefits. Claims for PUA benefits are not included here. As of May 9th, the Department reports 72,695 of these PUA claims having been filed (none of these PUA claims have yet been approved, apparently).

My sources within the Department indicate that the Department is weeks behind on processing the documents claimants and employers are submitting by fax or by mail. And, by processing, I mean simply scanning the documents into the Department’s computer system and associating those scanned documents with the correct claimant and employer.

Note: as of mid-April: UCB-23 forms (weekly wage confirmation notices) were being scanned from 4/6/20 with ~16,000 in the queue; UCB-16 forms (separation notices) were being scanned form 3/30/20 with ~54,000 in the queue; ~40 mail bins dating from 4/10/20 had yet to have their contents even opened.

Even at hearing offices, it takes five to ten days from when a letter is faxed or received before the received documents are scanned and entered into the Department’s claim-filing systems.

Note: Accordingly, if you need to update your availability or a phone number for contact purposes, it is best to call the hearing office rather than sending a letter or even providing the requested form.

And, it appears that the Department is ignoring this backlog when deciding cases and scheduling hearings. I had a hearing on Monday, May 11th, in which there was only seven days notice. As a result, the documents I submitted in a letter dated May 5th were NOT available to the administrative law judge. Luckily, those documents were made available through other mechanisms during the hearing. But, if those other mechanisms had failed, the hearing would have had to be postponed until another several weeks had passed.

Claimants have also contacted me about their claims being denied for failing to provide requested documents. They did provide the requested documents on time, but the deadline passed without those documents being uploaded into the Department’s system. So, rather than account for this backlog, the adjudicator/investigator denied the claim because the requested documents were not yet available in the system and dinged the claimants for failing to respond on time.

In these ways, the Department is essentially penalizing claimants for its own backlog.

Given how the numbers of new claims continue to dwarf the claims filed in 2019, these problems will continue. Until the Department acknowledges this backlog, claimants will simply have to jump over these additional hurdles being placed in their path by the Department.

The claim-filing process should NOT be a contest, however.