When a phone call to Wisconsin’s unemployment insurance helpline placed David Ficke in a queue of 400 to 500 people, he knew he would wait a long time for aid as Wisconsin’s first-come, first-served system drowned in a flood of claims. Rather than risk eviction, Ficke, a laid-off welder, traded his apartment in Beaver Dam, Wis., for a stay at the “Hotel Chrysler” — his 2006 Town and Country Touring Edition minivan. Courtesy of David Ficke
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Claire DeRosa / Wisconsin Watch

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Today we draw your attention to the latest story from WPR and Wisconsin Watch’s Bram Sable-Smith exposing the numerous flaws in Wisconsin’s unemployment insurance system, leaving thousands of jobless state residents without financial support during the COVID-19 crisis. The report is based on interviews with 16 out-of-work Wisconsinites, including David Ficke, a Beaver Dam welder who lived out of his car for a time while waiting for unemployment insurance to kick in. He’s still waiting.

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Wisconsin’s unemployment insurance system has failed to deliver for thousands of residents at a time when they most need it, leaving many to miss bill payments, rack up new credit card debt, lean on food pantries and face eviction. Wisconsinites who have had trouble with the system include, clockwise from upper left: David Ficke, Chenon Times-Rainwater, Melissa Minkoff, Belinda Bickford, Alysha Brooks, and Adriana Patino.

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“Many of the riskiest and most stressful frontline jobs now deemed essential offer low pay and are occupied by people at the most marginalized intersections: racial/ethnic minorities, women, and undocumented workers. These intersections contrast starkly with those of the predominantly White, middle-class, and rich people who hire, legislate, and direct the conditions under which the ‘essential’ — or expendable, depending on your point of view — work and, in the COVID-19 era, live or die.”

George Washington University policy analyst Lisa Bowleg writing for the American Journal of Public Health

Data to note

Here is the latest visualization of Wisconsin’s recent increase on COVID-19 cases from our partners at WisContext. 

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Resilient Wisconsin

People helping others and showing resilience during this time of anxiety. Send suggestions by tagging us on social media — @wisconsinwatch — or emailing us: tips@wisconsinwatch.org.

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