Gov. Tony Evers signs bill to start upgrade of Wisconsin’s outdated unemployment aid system — 2/25/21

Image of a computer screen displaying decades old technology, with a black background and rows of bright blue text. Yellow boxes redact personal information.
Credit: Claire DeRosa / Wisconsin Watch

Wisconsin Watch is a nonprofit newsroom that focuses on government integrity and quality of life issues, and we always provide our news for free.

You can read all of our coronavirus/COVID-19 coverage by signing up for our Wisconsin COVID-19 Update newsletter, and please consider becoming a member to support our nonprofit journalism. 

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.

Top Stories

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 

Burlington High teacher under investigation encouraged students to not wear masks The Journal Times 

Falling through the cracks: PPP reforms help some small businesses but others are still ineligible for relief Green Bay Press-Gazette 

2020 was good for meat sales. But pandemic demand stretched small processors thin. WPR 

Outdoor recreation surged during pandemic, but will funding follow? Wisconsin State Journal 

Eau Claire schools to bring K-5 students back to class 4 days per week WPR 

‘Wild West:’ Seniors struggle to find vaccine as teachers become eligible FOX6 Milwaukee 

National Guard expands COVID-19 testing to even younger children WXPR 

What are we missing? And how are you coping? Help us provide critical information and accountability by filling out this form or emailing us at


“Hopefully, it will put an end to the governor’s excuses for not starting these upgrades himself. Throughout the pandemic, there have been many missed opportunities and a lack of urgency by the Evers administration to address many of the issues with the unemployment insurance process.”

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, in a newsletter, after Gov. Tony Evers signed legislation to overhaul the state’s unemployment insurance technology

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.

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:

‘Filling a gap some food pantries can’t meet’ | Drive-thru at Mount Pleasant COP House serves over 200 families The Journal Times 

Access to some stories listed in the Wisconsin COVID-19 Update may be limited to subscribers of the news organizations that produced them. We urge our readers to consider supporting these important news outlets by subscribing.

Gov. Tony Evers signs bill to start upgrade of Wisconsin’s outdated unemployment aid system — 2/25/21 is a post from, a non-profit investigative news site covering Wisconsin since 2009. Please consider making a contribution to support our journalism.

Comments are closed.