“No administration has ever faced anything like that before,” said Mark Reihl, DWD unemployment division administrator. “We have done everything possible as quickly as possible to bring as many people on as we could … Frankly, I think we have done a great job in this period of time. Is it as good as we would like? Certainly not.”
I see a lot of excuses and slow action. I see very little leadership or results. Take a look at this MacIver story that tracks their very, very, very lethargic reaction and refusal to think outside of their bureaucratic bubble.
When Safer at Home went into effect, DWD had 57 employees at its unemployment call center, and the phone system could handle 450 calls at a time. On Mar. 26th, the day after the lockdown went into effect, DWD was getting 160 attempted calls a second, over half a million an hour.
DWD reacted by transferring 75 of its 1,606 full time employees to help out at the call center, bringing the total up to 132. It also boosted its call volume capacity up to 690 calls at a time, which meant more people would be able to wait on hold.
DWD’s unemployment line got 1.5 million attempted calls during the first week of Safer at Home, but only 115,679 people successfully filed a claim. Not all of those claims were filed over the phone. DWD begged people to file online, citing a 98 percent success rate for the 19,000 who did.
With the call center completely overwhelmed by demand, Frostman added another 18 people to its staff during the second week of the shutdown. That brought the total up to 150. Even though DWD still had over 1,400 full time employees not working at the call center, it announced plans to hire 85 new employees to help process unemployment paperwork.
Frostman said out of date IT infrastructure was the problem, and it “has forced DWD’s staff to work overtime, nights, and weekends to process unemployment claims to support out-of-work Wisconsinites.”
However, they weren’t taking calls 24/7. Phone lines were only open from 7:30 – 3:30, Monday to Friday.