(Photo provided)
(Photo provided)

A payment backlog still persists and the $600 boost has expired.

Over 19,000 Wisconsinites filed for unemployment last week for the first time, according to the state Department of Workforce Development, a sign the coronavirus pandemic continues to take its toll on the state’s economy despite a slightly decreased unemployment rate.

The new initial claims bring the state’s total to about 840,000 since March 15, when pandemic-related mass layoffs first hit the state. There are signs that an economic recovery is underway — the unemployment rate in June was 8.5 percent, down from about 12 percent in May — but it is unclear if that will last while the virus surges in Wisconsin.

Of those claimants, over 98,000 are stuck in a backlog, according to DWD, meaning they may never have received a single payment. In all there are about 165,000 claims that have yet to be processed, meaning some people in the backlog have made multiple claims.

Two people in the backlog spoke with UpNorthNews this week. One said she hasn’t received a single payment in 17 weeks, and another said he’s received one payment in that span.

Between the backlog and the expiration of the federal $600 weekly unemployment boost, about 200,000 Wisconsin households are at risk of eviction.

A Democratic bill package in the state Legislature meant to address the unemployment backlog has been met with inaction from that state’s Republican leaders. In Congress, Senate Republicans have finally begun negotiations over a second major federal relief package. 

House Democrats passed a sweeping $3 trillion bill in May that extended the $600 unemployment bonus and provided money to local governments for eviction prevention, but the Senate never took it up. The Republican counterproposal, unveiled just last week, is trimmed down and would slash the $600 boost to $200 per week while providing no money whatsoever for eviction prevention.