Why Wisconsin is blocking pandemic aid to people on federal disability — 6/1/20

A roundup of top news and information about Wisconsin’s response to the coronavirus

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Wisconsinites during the pandemic have filed some 2.4 million unemployment claims, and nearly 400,000 have yet to be processed — leaving many waiting for weeks and even months without income while the quagmire fuels partisan bickering. Today we highlight our latest story, which focuses on a subset of claims that the Department of Workforce Development has denied. 

Bram Sable-Smith, a WPR fellow embedded in the Wisconsin Watch newsroom, reports that a 2013 Wisconsin law prevents laid-off workers on federal disability from getting state unemployment. Now the state is denying them federal pandemic aid too, citing reasoning that some unemployment law experts are criticizing.

The result: laid-off people with disabilities cannot collect federal disaster relief during the nation’s worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

We also draw your attention to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story chronicling two decades of inaction on the state’s outmoded unemployment system, despite many warnings.

Top Stories

Courtesy of Jessica Barrera

Jessica Barrera, who receives Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), lost her part-time job at Groome Transportation in Eau Claire, Wis., due to the pandemic. She filed multiple unemployment claims with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, but was denied due to a state law barring the concurrent collection of federal SSDI and state unemployment insurance benefits.

‘I cried for days’: Wisconsin blocks pandemic payments for federal disability aid recipientsWisconsin Watch 

Wisconsin’s overwhelmed unemployment system comes after years of warnings about its weaknessesMilwaukee Journal Sentinel

Much still unknown, but in 12 weeks hospitals have become far better prepared to treat coronavirus patientsMilwaukee Journal Sentinel 

As economy reopens, child care providers grapple with how to stay safe, and afloatWPR 

Pastor and wife battle COVID-19Beloit Daily News 

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Government updates

Wisconsin Department of Health Services

Gov. Tony Evers’ office

U.S. Centers and Disease Control and Prevention

World Health Organization 

Live updates 

Live coverage from USA Today-Wisconsin reporters 

Live coverage from Wisconsin State Journal reporters


“The legacy of racism is also seen in the harsh disparities in health outcomes for Black people, once again laid bare by the COVID-19 pandemic. The only way to work toward justice is to replace systemic racism with a society based on equity, and that is what Milwaukee County government is committed to doing.”

Marcelia Nicholson, chairwoman of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, as quoted by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

Data to note

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services reported 140 new COVID-19 cases on Monday. The new cases accounted for 3.9% of total tests, continuing a downward trend in recent weeks. DHS also reported three new deaths, bringing the state’s total during the pandemic to 595. 

Here’s a look at the latest trends in COVID-19 diagnoses from our partners at WisContext.

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@wisconsinwatchmediapartners.wpcomstaging.com.

Sammy Gibbons / USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

Karizma Mirage performs in a virtual drag-a-thon hosted by This Is It, a gay nightclub in Milwaukee.

Wisconsin’s LGBTQ communities recognize, celebrate Pride Month despite COVID-19 limitationsGreen Bay Press-Gazette

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