Nearly 500K Wisconsinites have applied for unemployment benefits, some waiting weeks for aid

Data pix.

MADISON -- Unemployment numbers continued to soar on Thursday, April 30, with roughly 30 million Americans having filed for unemployment benefits in the last six weeks.

Nearly a half-million Wisconsinites have filed for jobless aid since March 15. The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development has already distributed more than $290 million in state unemployment benefits, but many say their claims still haven't been processed -- and they simply don't know what to do while they wait.

Matthew Voit

"There hasn't been any person-to-person contact. Trying to get that is almost impossible," said Matthew Voit, who was furloughed from Potawatomi Hotel and Casino in early April. "Maybe one every 30 or 40 phone calls you get through to the automated system."

Voit told FOX6 News that he applied for unemployment benefits immediately after being furloughed, and has filed each Sunday in the weeks since. Still, he waits.

"It says your weekly claim ending for April 25 is being held in, pending resolution of outstanding issues," he said.

A question posted to Facebook Thursday asking FOX6 viewers to describe their issues with filing drew hundreds of messages, comments and shares -- including Voit's.

Viewers have continued to express frustrations over pending claims, unseen benefits and hours-long wait times. Voit said he's tried hundreds of times to get his calls answered.

"Ninety-nine percent of the time you call, and it says this person is unavailable to accept calls. At that point it says, hey, all of our people are currently handling other calls right now. Unfortunately, our systems can't put anyone else on hold, and we're going to have to disconnect your call," Voit said.

The lack of access is forcing a financial strain for those waiting on relief.

"Savings is definitely being dipped into," said Voit.

More than 26,000 Wisconsinites filed new unemployment claims between Sunday, April 26 and Wednesday, April 29.

Wisconsin unemployment claims (Week of April 26)

"We are receiving hundreds of thousands of calls every week," Emily Savard, Wisconsin DWD program and policy analyst, said.

The DWD said it is working to bring more people on board as quickly as it can but, Savard said: "We do have to follow the state hiring practices and policies and then train the staff, so everything takes more time than would be ideal in this situation."

The DWD is finalizing a contract with a call center which will add 500 people to answer phones and 100 others to process claims. The additional call center is expected to be up and running sometime in May.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.