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How Wisconsin plans to modernize the unemployment system


WISCONSIN (WQOW) - On Tuesday during his State of the State address, Governor Tony Evers called for the need to modernize Wisconsin's unemployment system. And on Wednesday morning, he introduced a bill that would appropriate $5.3 million to the state Department of Workforce Development to begin that process.

In an interview with WisconsinEye, DWD Secretary-designee Amy Pechacek said the current computer system called "COBOL" our state uses to process unemployment claims is decades old and has outlived its usefulness, saying if a claimant needs to give documentation to support their unemployment claims, they have two choices: either send those documents by snail mail or fax them.

Pechacek said they've partnered with Google to work on technological solutions like a document portal to upload paperwork and a secure messaging component so claimants can virtually speak with an adjudicator.

The DWD said back in September, almost 100,000 Wisconsinites had pending unemployment insurance claims, so getting the money to make these improvements is crucial.

"If we're not able to modernize, we're looking at potential catastrophic failure going forward of the system.  This system won't survive forever and the delays that we already have are a result of the technology that we've been stuck with for 50 years," Pechacek said.

Pechacek said the DWD is also working on a plain language initiative that would simplify the wording in the unemployment application, making it easier to understand and fill out.

She hopes the more user-friendly form will be ready by March.

Katrina Lim

Katrina Lim joined the News 18 team in August 2019 as a multimedia journalist. She was born and raised in Jersey City, New Jersey but has lived in all time zones of the contiguous U.S.A.

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