Wisconsin is bracing for more people than ever to file for unemployment as the COVID-19 emergency locks down the state.

The Department of Workforce Development reported that 69,342 people filed for unemployment last week, soaring over the 5,266 applicants received during the same time last year. On Sunday, March 22, 10,872 people filed unemployment claims.

Those numbers are expected to climb as Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers orders a shutdown of non-essential businesses on Tuesday, March 24.

The Department of Workforce Development has created a COVID-19 page on its website dwd.wisconsin.gov to get information on applying for unemployment. People are encouraged to apply online. The agency is reporting high call volume with long wait times.

“People can apply for unemployment online or on the phone. They do not need to go to the (Dane County) Job Center,” Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said during a March 23 press conference.

Wisconsin workers can get benefits if they are unemployed by no fault of their own and meet the monetary criteria and weekly eligibility criteria. The weekly benefit rate minimum is $54 and the maximum is $370.

Evers has asked the state legislature to repeal the state law that requires waiting period to receive unemployment benefits.

“I am urging the Wisconsin State Legislature to quickly act and repeal the one week waiting period for UI benefits, so UI funds can get quickly to affected workers to support those households and our communities,” Evers said last week.

Under Gov. Evers emergency order issued last week, those who qualify do not need to search for work during the COVID-19 emergency. Large job fairs have been canceled through May 15.

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced a county government hiring freeze last week.

Employees who have evidence that they contracted COVID-19 while at work can apply for Workman’s Compensation.

Workers who have concerns that their employer is not keeping them safe from COVID-19 on the job can file a complaint with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Wisconsin employees can also file a whistleblower’s complaint.

More info is available at osha.gov.

While a majority of businesses shut down, essential businesses are seeing high demand.

Jennifer Richards, general manager of the Pick ’N Save at 2538 Ironwood Drive in Sun Prairie, said the store is hiring for all positions—clerks, baggers, stockers and more. People can go online, fill out an application and then call for an interview, she said.

“It is temporary work and people understand that,” Richards said. “We are just doing what we can to give people jobs in this fragile economy and do what we can do to help the community.”

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