Issues persist with Wisconsinites trying to receive unemployment benefits, as lawmakers blame leadership

Action 2 News heard from more than 50 struggling to obtain unemployment
Eric Paynter of Green Bay has had issues with receiving unemployment benefits through the...
Eric Paynter of Green Bay has had issues with receiving unemployment benefits through the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.(WBAY)
Published: Feb. 10, 2021 at 5:54 PM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Over the last month, Action 2 News has heard from dozens of people experiencing troubles receiving unemployment benefits. They shared stories of their economic hardships and the toll it’s taken on their families.

Eric Paynter of Green Bay first received unemployment benefits when he was laid off in March.

“This is a thorn in my side right here. We need to confirm your identity, it’s still under review,” Paynter said while reading off his computer screen, which has the Department of Workforce Development’s website up.

In November Paynter’s unemployment benefits stopped when the DWD asked him to confirm his identity, which meant sending in certain documents.

Paynter said he did that.

“If my identity confirmation is there, why doesn’t it take this for about five minutes and it’s done,” Paynter said signaling to his computer keyboard. “I just, I just, I don’t get it.”

Paynter was one of at least 50 people who reached out to Action 2 News detailing their struggles with obtaining benefits.

Darcey McCutcheon of Appleton said she filed in October for unemployment when her temp job ended. She has been living on her savings waiting for approval.

“Something like this could really put somebody out. I mean, what are you supposed to do? Go live in a box under the bridge? I mean seriously,” McCutcheon said.

Hendrique Sterling of Racine has not been able to get through to someone at DWD to discuss why his benefits have been held up.

“August, September, October, November, December, January, we’re now in February. So yes, I’ve been in adjudication going on six months and haven’t received no benefits in like seven months,” Sterling, a father of three, said.

Action 2 News spent nearly a month trying to obtain a response from the Department of Workforce Development on the cases that were brought to our attention. However, our inquiries went ignored.

The DWD’s Secretary-Designee Amy Pechacek testified two weeks ago before the Senate Economic and Workforce Development Committee, calling for about $100 million to fix the agency’s outdated tech system.

“The only path to preventing and preparing for future crises like the one we’re working through now, is a comprehensive, modernization of our IT system,” Pechacke then said.

State Sen. Dan Feyen, R- Fond Du Lac, leads that committee and said the problems lie with management not just IT.

“To answer hundred questions just to get unemployment, when you were laid off through no fault of your own due to a pandemic because the government shut your business down, is unacceptable,” Feyen said.

Feyen argues that there’s no leadership coming from the government’s office in regards to the persisting issues at DWD.

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