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Gov. Tony Evers on Thursday signed into law legislation to upgrade 1970s-era technology that shares part of the blame for Wisconsin’s failure to quickly deliver unemployment benefits to thousands of residents who lost work during the pandemic.
The law instructs the Department of Workforce Development to begin work on overhauling a computer system that takes months to program and cannot even answer phones and print compensation checks at the same time. But the Republican-controlled Legislature did not include funding for a project with a $90 million expected price tag. Instead, the law instructs Evers to “seek and exhaust any federal funding available to use” before requesting funds from lawmakers.
DWD planned a major overhaul of its computer system more than a decade ago, but Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle’s administration pulled the plug in 2007 as the project fell behind schedule and looked poised to exceed its $24 million budget.
In a Wisconsin Watch/WPR report last week, labor experts said Wisconsin could take more immediate steps to help jobless residents who are waiting. Those include making filing claims more user-friendly — as other states have done during the pandemic — by waiving restrictions Republicans enacted last decade to limit access to benefits.
Tony Evers signs bill to begin overhaul of unemployment system — Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
‘Too good to be true’: 4 pandemic scams to watch for and how you can protect yourself — Green Bay Press-Gazette
Outdoor recreation surged during pandemic, but will funding follow? —Wisconsin State Journal
Data to note
Here’s a look at the Department of Health Services’ vaccine dashboard, which showed Thursday that 49.4% of Wisconsinites ages 65 and older have gotten at least one dose — as have 14.5% of the state’s overall population. Racial disparities persist in distributing vaccines. The shares of Black, Hispanic and Native American residents to receive a dose remain significantly below that of white residents.
Public health officials continue to urge Wisconsinites to wear masks and practice physical distancing until vaccinations are more widely distributed.
WisContext offers this visualization of Wisconsin COVID-19 infections and deaths.
Calculate your exposure risk
In Wisconsin, even small gatherings can carry a risk of exposure to the coronavirus, according to a nationwide tool that estimates the danger by the size of gathering and county in which it is held. Data scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Stanford University developed the tool, which you can find here.
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