January 24, 2020

DWD to close two Unemployment Insurance Hearing offices - WEAU

By https://www.facebook.com/PostlewaitDenton/ December 10, 2019 14 0

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - 27 State Legislators are fighting a decision they say would inconvenience people who need to file for unemployment compensation after a layoff or firing.

The Department of Workforce Development is closing the Unemployment Insurance Hearing Offices in Eau Claire and Appleton. According to State Representatives Warren Petryk and Jim Edming, the decision to close these offices is not in the best interest of rural workers in Wisconsin.

“It’s probably one of the most insane things I've run into in five years,” Edming said.

The DWD has decided to close two of the four Unemployment Insurance Offices in the state, leaving one in Madison and the other in Milwaukee.

The offices provide services for people who have recently been fired or laid off. Local legislators are now working to keep the other two, one in Eau Claire and one in Appleton, open.

“UI, or as we refer to it or Unemployment Insurance, is compensation for those who lose their jobs through no fault of their own,” Petryk said. “That's what got us so concerned. Once we heard from constituents and we heard from stakeholders around this issue. We reacted very quickly to be proactive on this.”

“People in the north used to say, the northern half of Wisconsin is being forgotten,” Edming said. “It really is on this issue.”

The reason for the closure, according to the DWD, is a lack of UI appeals. They say starting in March of 2020, Eau Claire and Fox Valley will no longer host hearings. Instead, the program will switch to a phone appeal, which some other nearby states already have in place. The DWD said it could still use the space in Eau Claire for special circumstances, but said the amount of vacant space prevents them from leasing. Legislators said it is a bad idea to close the sites.

“If you lost your job, you're just a mess as a rule because you don't know what you are going to do,” Edming said. “There is no way I can look a constituent of mine in the eye and say 'you have to drive to Milwaukee or Madison to get this taken care of.'”

“If they put the facilities only in Madison and Milwaukee, that will be a real inconvenience for our constituents,” Petryk said.

Petryk and Edming also said some of their constituents could be forced to drive four to five hours to appeal an unemployment compensation decision. They hope their letter, signed by 25 other Assembly Republicans, will be enough to change the decision by the DWD.

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