MILWAUKEE -- Last week, 4.4 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits, bringing the total number of people who have filed for unemployment over the last five weeks to roughly 26 million. High call volumes have resulted in long wait times, leaving many people discouraged -- and some, even struggling to pay their bills.
As the number of unemployment claims filed in Wisconsin goes up, frustrations are mounting.
"I don't know what to do anymore," said Milwaukee resident Phyllis Stewart. "I have headaches constantly. I don't sleep good at night."
Stewart tells FOX6 News she filed her initial unemployment claim more than four weeks ago after being laid off from a local hotel. She has continued to file each Sunday -- but still hasn't received her benefits.
She said she's spent hours on the phone trying to get answers from the Department of Workforce Development (DWD).
"I was waiting, and waiting, and waiting," Stewart said. "I'm the type of person that, I always make sure my rent is paid, my lights and gas is paid...but I don't have the funds to do that."
FOX6 News tried getting through on Thursday and had trouble, too. Stewart said it is taking a toll.
"I know everyone is going through something, and I know it's taking a toll on all of us, not just me, and it's just where we are all reaching out for some help, and we need that help," she said.
Last week alone, nearly 56,000 Wisconsinites filed new unemployment claims, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
FOX6 News has received hundreds of calls and emails from people like Stewart. During Thursday's state briefing, we asked Gov. Tony Evers what the state is doing to resolve the problem.
"To answer the question directly, we are hiring more people so that we can process them in a more timely fashion," he said.
A spokesman with the Department of Workforce Development tells FOX6 News that, so far, 106 state employees have been reassigned to help process unemployment claims. He said they will be recruiting over 200 positions and are working to increase staffing at call centers.