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Audit cites problems leading to unemployment payment delays

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development was responsible for 11 of the 13 weeks it took, on average, to process unemployment claims filed since the coronavirus pandemic began, according to an audit released Monday.

The nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau report looked at a sample of nearly 270 people who had filed claims between March 15 and April 11 but who had not received payment as of June 20, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

The delay in processing claims has led to intense criticism from Republicans who control the Legislature and place the blame with Gov. Tony Evers’ administration. Evers replaced the head of the agency, while officials said an unprecedented number of claims and GOP-authored unemployment laws contributed to the delays and exacerbated delays.

Amy Pechacek, Workforce Development transition director, said in a written response that the agency does not dispute that the pandemic and increased workload caused delays in processing claims.

“We do, however, find that the way the report portrays certain activities as delays or inactions based on a certain point in time may provide an incomplete representation of the activities involved in processing a claim,” she said.

In response to the latest audit, state Republicans, including Assembly Speaker Robin Vos criticized Evers and his administration for not acting sooner to extend call center hours, transfer state employees or require DWD staff to work overtime to process the backlog of claims.

Vos and Assembly Republicans have proposed legislation that would require the department to eliminate the backlog within 30 days, further expand call center hours and include cutting state employee pay if they don’t resolve the issues.

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