Frequently Asked Questions About Filing for Benefits and Inquiries

Are there reasons that I might not be able to complete my application for unemployment benefits solely online?
Most claimants will be able to complete their application online. There are certain situations that require additional information that we cannot collect via the Internet application at this time. If you are instructed to call a claims specialist to complete your claim, the information you have already provided will be saved and available to the claims specialist when you call.

A few examples include:

  • Requesting to backdate more than one week.
  • You work for an educational employer.
  • You did not work for one of the employers we have on file for you.
Remember that each claim is different, and even if you had to call to complete your claim last time, you might not need to this time!
So why should I use online benefit services to file my claim if there is a chance I will still have to call?
In 2017, the Division of Unemployment Insurance will retire the automated telephone filing system and direct workers to file online. Most claims are already filed online because it is fast, easy, and mobile-friendly. Learn more about the benefits of using online services. If you need assistance or have barriers to using online services, claims specialists are available by phone.
Why do I sometimes have to call a claims specialist after my online weekly claim has been accepted?
If you are told that you must contact a claims specialist after your claim has been accepted, that is because one or more of your answers may affect your eligibility for benefits. The same rules apply if you file your weekly claim through the telephone system.
How much unemployment will I get?
We can't tell you whether you would be eligible or for how much, until you actually complete an initial claim application. After you apply, the data gets processed by a number of computer programs that are run overnight which will determine whether and for how much you qualify. We will then mail notices to you to tell you whether you are eligible, as well as explaining your rights and responsibilities. Refer to the "Computing Benefit Entitlement" web page to understand how the Department determines if you have enough wages to qualify for unemployment benefits and how we compute the amount of total benefits you can be paid and the amount of your weekly payment if you do qualify.
I applied for unemployment benefits, why do I have to call again to get a payment?
The initial claim application leads to a decision about whether you qualify for benefits, but this alone does not send out payments. You must file a weekly claim certification for each week you want an unemployment benefit payment. It is the weekly claim certification that actually triggers the payment for each week. Always wait until after Saturday to file a weekly claim certification for the calendar week ending that Saturday.
How long after I apply will I get my first benefit payment?

If there are no pending eligibility questions on your claim, we will generally determine your entitlement within 7 days of your filing of the initial claim, and benefit checks are usually mailed within 7 days after a completed weekly claim has been received. See also information about the waiting week.

If you file a new claim or re-open a current but inactive claim, you can receive payment either by direct deposit or Visa pre-paid debit card. See payment method options for more information.

What should I do if I'm having trouble getting through to file my weekly claim?
If you are unable to get through on our phone lines please be patient and try again at a later time. You can also file your weekly claim online.
Why do you need my Social Security Number and how do you use it?
The federal Social Security Act requires that you give us your social security number. It will be used to verify your identity, locate your employer(s) and wages, determine other income, determine eligibility, keep a record of your benefit payments and to gather statistics. We use a matching program to verify your social security number with the Social Security Administration. If you do not provide your social security number, we cannot take your claim.

The authority to require your social security number is found under Internal Revenue Code of 1954, 26 U.S.C. 85, Sections 6011(a), 6050(b), 6109(a), P.L. 98-369, Section 1137(a)(1) and under Wisconsin Statute Section 108.04(2)(e).

Personal information you provide may be used for secondary purposes [Privacy Law, s. 15.04(1)(m), Wis. Stats.]. In addition to reporting your income from unemployment to the IRS and WI Dept. of Revenue, we also share information about your claim with other federal and state agencies to help them determine your eligibility for or amounts of benefits payable under their programs. Some of those programs include General Assistance, Food Stamps, Wisconsin Works (W-2), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and Medicaid.

Can I receive weekly Unemployment benefits and also receive monthly Social Security Retirement cash benefits at the same time?
Yes. Wisconsin Unemployment benefits are not affected by also receiving Social Security Retirement benefits. Social Security Retirement cash benefits are also unaffected by receiving WI Unemployment benefits. To find out more about how to qualify and how to apply for Social Security Retirement benefits go online to
What if I cannot remember my Personal Identification Number (PIN)?
Claims specialists do not have access to your 4-digit PIN. If you have forgotten it, you may choose a new number as part of your claim application. We will ask for additional identifying information before the new PIN will be authorized for your use.
How do I change my address?
The weekly claim system will ask if your address has changed since your last claim. If it has follow directions the system provides to change your address. If you are not filing for benefits at the present time but wish to change your address on our records, you must call one of the initial claim application/assistance numbers and press 3 when the system gives you your choices.
I want to have state and federal taxes withheld from my unemployment payments (or I want to stop having them withheld), what do I do?
You can request to have taxes withheld or to change your current withholding status by using the online Tax Withholding Application or by calling the Initial Claim Application phone number (select Menu Option 2). The Federal withholding is 10% of the weekly amount payable, and the State withholding is 5% of the weekly amount payable.
I will be laid off in a few weeks - should I start my claim now to get things started?
No, wait until the first week in which you are unemployed or partially unemployed and start your claim then. You can file your initial claim online, it's fast, secure and mobile friendly. If you apply by phone and that week is Christmas or Thanksgiving or the 4th of July or New Year's week, we may be very busy, so call a week early. If you are ever unable to get through to start your claim in that first week, you can call the next week. Just be sure to tell the claims specialist that you want to start your claim with the prior week.
I'm trying to call in my weekly claim, and the first question is "Were you able to work full-time and available for full-time work." What does that mean?
All claimants are asked this question each week. Benefits are payable to those who are able to work full-time (32 hours or more per week), and are available for work full-time. If a person answers "no" we can not pay benefits until we determine the circumstances. This question has nothing to do with the later question of "Did you work during the week." This question also has nothing to do with whether your employer has work for you in that week.
I have a determination (decision) allowing benefits, but I'm not receiving anything. Why not?
A claimant may have more than one issue which must be resolved. It's possible for example to have a decision allowing benefits on one issue, and a decision denying benefits on another issue. If you've received more than one decision, you need to review them all. Generally in a claim where decisions have been issued and benefits are allowed, payments are released within a week. If your situation doesn't seem to be described here, you should call the Inquiry/Assistance phone line.
Do I have to report working if I have not been paid yet?
Yes. You must report working in every week that you work, no matter when you will be paid for the work. And all wages must be reported on your weekly claim certification for the week in which they were earned, not in the week you are paid. If you do not report working in a week that you work, you could be penalized in addition to having to pay back any improperly received benefits.
I am currently unemployed and receiving unemployment. If I get a part time job, do I lose my unemployment?
No, the department uses a "partial wage formula" to compute your benefits each week that you have gross earnings. If your earnings would vary from week to week, so would your partial payments. But only the amount paid is subtracted from your remaining entitlement.
I filed for benefits a year ago, and got all of my benefits with no problem. Now I got a notice to start a new benefit year. I called in but for some reason I haven't gotten paid yet - the notice says my monetary is pending. What's going on?
In order to start a second benefit year the law requires that we verify that the person has worked for an employer who pays into unemployment, and earned eight times their old benefit rate since starting that earlier benefit year. We often have to contact the most recent employers to find out what the earnings were with them, to verify that this condition was met. This usually takes one to two weeks. We will send you a letter asking for this same information (in the event that the employers don't respond).
I just got laid off by XYZ Company, so I filed my claim. Then I got this letter asking me to prove how much I earned after I quit working for ABC Company several months ago. What's going on?
State law requires that we investigate every quit to determine the circumstances, unless the person has already earned 6 times their benefit rate after quitting with another employer. Because we can verify these earnings much faster than conducting the investigation, when it appears that there is subsequent work, we will send letters to both the claimant and those later employers, asking for the amount of earnings. We can then, usually within 1-2 weeks, release payments.
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