MILWAUKEE (AP) - The state Department of Workforce Development said this week it's making progress on nearly 9,400 backlogged unemployment claims dating back to July, with about 1,400 claims processed in the past few weeks.
Most of the claims are being reviewed by hand because the applicant received an overpayment after misreporting wages, mistakenly or on purpose, according to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report. Other claims are being reviewed to make sure claimants have used up all their state benefits before filing for a federal extension.
The number of claims that needed to be processed manually rose in July, contributing to the backlog.
"While affected claimants will not lose benefits as a result of the wait and will receive all benefits for which they are eligible, we understand these benefits are critical and will continue to work as quickly as possible to ensure accurate payments are made," department spokesman John Dipko said in an email.
The department has hired 15 part-time employees to help deal with the backlog, and 20 more are scheduled to start in the next few weeks. Four permanent workers also were hired.
Officials "expect to make significant progress" on the pending caseload in the next 10 weeks, he said.
The backlog caused financial hardship with many unemployed workers, including contractor Robert Burt of Milwaukee. He contacted the Journal Sentinel in October to say he hadn't received any unemployment since August because of an overpayment and was unable to pay his mortgage. He said he filed for unemployment before realizing that his employer had paid him vacation pay.
About a week later he said he received his unemployment, worth about $3,100.
"I wish I didn't have to get it. I'd rather be at work," he said. "Most of the money I spent already on paying my bills, paying my mortgage."
Dipko said Burt had been overpaid on at least two occasions.
"We have a responsibility to the public to detect and correct benefit overpayments," Dipko said.
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