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Today we highlight our examination of how Wisconsin leaders’ actions and lack of action in recent years set up the state’s unemployment insurance system to fail during the pandemic, leaving thousands of jobless residents without income for months.
For years, Republicans and Democrats failed to upgrade 1970s-era computer systems that slowly processed claims. And Republicans under former Gov. Scott Walker enacted a slew of restrictions — in the name of reducing fraud — limiting access to benefits, according to a report by Marty Hobe of TMJ4 News and Bram Sable-Smith of Wisconsin Watch and WPR.
Meanwhile, the Department of Workforce Development under Gov. Tony Evers has drawn criticism for not reshuffling resources more quickly to address the backlog of jobless claims — currently at about 93,000, Hobe and Sable-Smith report.
The report came as Evers, a Democrat, unveiled $541 million in pandemic relief legislation Tuesday that included small measures to streamline processing of jobless claims — alongside an evictions moratorium and requirements that insurers cover COVID-19 testing, treatment, prescriptions and vaccines, Molly Beck and Patrick Marley report for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, called his own Tuesday afternoon press conference to unveil Republican ideas — but no new legislation — despite Evers’ request that leaders in both parties work together on a relief package.
“The Democratic governor and Republican lawmakers appear to be heading toward a familiar place: At risk of no action being taken while COVID-19 cases soar, even as other states take new steps to prepare for a cold winter that will push more people indoors, raising the risk of infection,” Beck and Marley report.
Thousands await jobless aid as Wisconsin leaders blame each other for failure — Wisconsin Watch/TMJ4 News
Tony Evers releases $541M COVID-19 relief package but Republicans signal tough path — Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
New Dane County order bans indoor gatherings, limits outdoor gatherings to 10 people — Wisconsin State Journal
Emergency use of COVID-19 vaccines likely in weeks, though U.S. still headed for a harsh winter — Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Wisconsin prepares to get, deliver COVID-19 vaccine — Wisconsin State Journal
Wisconsin prison system sees highest single-day spike in COVID-19 cases with 808 new infections — Wisconsin State Journal
Kenosha City Council approves citywide face mask mandate to prevent COVID-19 spread — Kenosha News
Pandemic creates whiplash effect, uncertain future for Midwest businesses — Lee Enterprises Midwest
Dane County businesses bear brunt of COVID-19 enforcement without being infection hotspots — Wisconsin State Journal
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Data to note
WisContext offers these visualizations of Wisconsin’s startling trends in COVID-19 infections, deaths and hospitalizations.
People helping others and showing resilience during this time of anxiety. Send suggestions by tagging us on social media — @wisconsinwatch — or emailing us: firstname.lastname@example.org.
NNS Spotlight: ‘We wouldn’t take a recess’: How the Southside Organizing Center presses on despite the pandemic — Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service
Chandler Park Holiday Lights organizers shift as event goes on despite COVID-19 — Portage Daily Register
The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (wisconsinwatch.org) collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, PBS Wisconsin, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.