(The Center Square) – The top Republican in the Wisconsin Senate isn’t buying the idea that Gov. Tony Evers’ administration has ended the state’s months-long unemployment backlog.
Evers on Wednesday named Amy Pechacek as the new Secretary-designee for the Department of Workforce Development.
“The DWD has faced historic levels of claims, hindered by antiquated technology and burdensome bureaucracy created by those who always intended to make it harder for folks to access these vital benefits," the governor said in a statement.
"Despite these obstacles, Amy has been exceptional, and I am grateful she will be able to continue her good work in the months and years ahead.”
Pechacek then issued her own statement in which she claimed DWD has cleared Wisconsin’s months-long backlog of unemployment claims. Some dated back to March, and left thousands of people waiting for unemployment checks.
“Today, I am proud to say we have reached our goal to clear the backlog of claims,” Pechacek said.
But the notion of "cleared" may mean different things to different people.
Pechacek said many people will continue to wait for their unemployment benefits. She said DWD has simply shifted the backlog.
“All remaining relevant eligibility issues over 21 days old have now been assigned for adjudication,” Pechacek said in her statement.
Sen. Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, on Wednesday said moving claims is different than clearing the backlog and making sure everyone who is entitled to benefits receives them.
"The reality is thousands of people’s claims were simply shifted into DWD’s broken adjudication process, and struggling families are still left waiting,” LeMahieu said.
As of September, the last time DWD updated its numbers, more than 100,000 people in Wisconsin were still waiting on an unemployment claim.
LeMahieu called Pechacek's claim that the backlog has been cleared “completely disingenuous."
He is not the only one.
Rep. Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, told The Center Square that just last week 30,000 people were waiting to be paid, and now the governor’s office claims all is well at DWD.
“The Governor was asleep for months, causing real harm to tens of thousands waiting for their unemployment. An audit showed his agency was responsible for nearly all of the delay in processing claims. Now, we are supposed to just take them at their word, with no supporting data that they have cleared a backlog,” Born said. “Call me skeptical but as of yesterday, I still had constituents reaching out for help.”