DWD Shows Off “Antiquated” Computer Programs in Hopes of Getting Funds Needed for Modernization

Jan 28, 2021

A DWD employee shows the system he works with on a daily basis to process Wisconsinites unemployment claims.
Credit Department of Workforce Development

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development has been struggling with millions of unemployment claims.

Republicans have accused Governor Evers of making people wait for months for payouts.

“These failures weren’t brought on by ancient systems, they were brough on by a lack of leadership. These failures brought unnecessary hardship to Wisconsin families. The Evers administration owes these families and in many cases an apology,” said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos during his response to Evers State of the State address calling for an overhaul of the system.

Evers administration said it’s hired more DWD employees to process the increase in claims, but they struggle to overcome the outdated computer system.

“I had heard anecdotally about the antiquated systems, but I have to admit I truly did not understand what DWD was working with until I got here,” said DWD Secretary-Designee Amy Pechacek. She came onto DWD in September and Evers appointed her Secretary-Designee of the Department in December.

The yellow blocks are names or information that has been covered for privacy reasons.
Credit Department of Workforce Development

“We work in Government, so no one expects the government to have the latest and greatest in any technology but what DWD has been working with was a complete shock,” said Pechacek.

Rather than just tell people how bad the system is, she had several DWD employees show everyone.

During an online news conference, they spent more than 20 minutes explaining how they might process one type of thousands of kinds of claims they get.

The main system they use has a black background with green pixelated font. They can’t just scroll through the information that’s usually spread out on a dozen pages. They have exit and enter each page to read the information.

“Imagine having a binder and each one of these screens is on a separate page in that binder. You can only look at one page of the binder at a time and you have to look at say 15 different pages throughout that binder in order to do what you need to do on the claim,” said Program and Policy Analyst Emily Savard.

According to employees, it usually takes several programs just to resolve one claim and it’s not user friendly or intuitive.

“Did I mention that ‘L’ stands for quit? 100 codes are denials, like I said it’s a different language,” said Savard.

The bill Evers called the special session for would have been 5-point-3 million dollars that would kick start the modernization of the unemployment claim system.

In her presentation, Pechacek said that amount would allow them to get started but the overall cost to completely modernize the system could cost anywhere between $48 and $70 million.