by Benjamin Yount
A Republican lawmaker says plans to modernize Wisconsin’s unemployment office are about a year late, and not nearly enough.
Wisconsin’s Department of Workforce Development on Wednesday announced a $16.5 million contract with Madison-based Flexion to take the first step in the process of updating and upgrading its computer network.
“The project involves tackling challenges resulting from legacy IT systems that date back to the 1970s,” DWD Secretary-designee Amy Pechacek said. “Flexion’s work will include development of maintainable infrastructure and the phase-out of existing systems, as well as the development of modern user-centered applications.”
DWD has been complaining about its old and outdated computer system since hundreds of thousands of people flooded Wisconsin’s unemployment system in the spring of 2020 when government restrictions were imposed to slow the spread of COVID-19.
That’s why Rep. Ron Tusler, R-Harrison, is wondering why it took this long to make this move.
“Gov. [Tony] Evers has totally failed Wisconsin’s unemployed at the most critical moment in Wisconsin’s unemployment history,” Tusler told The Center Square. “One long year after firing DWD’s secretary, Gov. Evers is desperately entering us into a four-year $16.5 million liability for IT help. This isn’t buying a service. This is buying an expensive excuse.”
Tens of thousands of people in Wisconsin waited months to get help with their unemployment claims. Some are still waiting.
DWD blamed the troubles on its computer system, but reports showed that DWD didn’t have enough people answering the phones, or incorrectly processed claims. An audit from December said it was those human failures that caused most of the delays in getting people their unemployment benefits.
“Gov. Jim Doyle’s legacy was his boondoggle over the transportation fund,” Tusler said. “Gov. Ever’s legacy will be this utter failure for our unemployed during COVID.”
– – –