Last week, nearly 70,000 Wisconsinites applied for unemployment insurance as many businesses have begun to close in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. Last year, just over 5,200 residents applied for unemployment over the same week.
And just yesterday, 10,872 people filed for unemployment in Wisconsin, nearly 10,000 more than did on that date last year.
With many workers losing jobs that seemed secure just weeks ago, many Madison residents are scrambling to ensure they’ll be able to meet their basic needs.
UW-Madison is giving salaried faculty and staff paid leave, but that policy doesn’t apply to hourly workers. That means student employees will receive their last paycheck of the spring semester this Thursday.
The University of Michigan and University of Connecticut have both taken actions to ensure that student workers will be paid, and a group of student workers are petitioning UW-Madison to do the same.
Mario Carillo is a junior at UW-Madison who has worked various jobs at the University, and one of the students who started the petition. Carillo says that while some students can afford the loss of employment, some first-generation and low-income students will be hit hard.
“For many of us we simply cannot afford to either wait or to survive in these times without the stability of having not only a job on campus, but a home, [a] stable food source, income, and education,” Carillo says. “So, we’re working on the University to address that need by following the lead of other peer institutions and pay their student workers and hourlies from now until the end of classes, which would have been the usual contractual obligation.”
Carillo says that over 500 people have signed the petition as of today.
Other workers in Dane County are unsure about what unemployment compensation they can receive, and whether they qualify for benefits at all.
Troy Norwick, for example, is a chef at Union Corners Brewery on the city’s east side. Troy says he’s out of work, but hasn’t technically been laid off yet.
“I was actually looking at the process [of unemployment, but] I’m not too sure what all the steps are I would need to take in order to do that,” Norwick says. “I’ve been trying to hold off because [I] haven’t officially been [laid off]. The owner isn’t planning on terminating anyone, but I heard that the Governor is issuing a stay-at-home order tomorrow, so I would assume tomorrow we’d all be laid off anyway.”
Public employees are facing similar questions.
Last week, Governor Tony Evers ordered the indefinite closure of all public and private K-12 schools in the state.
Nicole Quandt is a reading interventionist and half-day substitute teacher at the Madison Metropolitan School District. Quandt says Madison Teachers, Inc., the Madison teachers union, hasn’t gotten any answers about how substitute teachers will be compensated.
“I was projected to work the exact same job, over and over, until the end of the year. That money [that would cover my pay] was probably put aside somewhere,” Quandt says. “So, [Madison Teachers, Inc.] had said you could try to go for unemployment, so many people are these days with all of a sudden this happening, [but] I haven’t yet. I don’t even know if I’d be eligible for it because it’s such a unique situation, [and I’m] worried about taking money away from people who desperately, desperately need it. So, there aren’t really too many answers out there.”
The first step to getting unemployment insurance in Wisconsin is to visit dwd.wisconsin.gov, clicking on the “Unemployment Insurance” tab, and filing an initial claim with the Department of Workforce Development.
Last week, Governor Tony Evers’ called for the State to waive a one-week waiting period to receive unemployment benefits, but the Republican-controlled Legislature has yet to pass the change.
In order to process the growing applications, the DWD is hiring additional customer service agents. Those job listings can be found at wisc.jobs.
Reporting for WORT, I’m Shaun Soman.