Unemployment COVID-19 Public Information

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Frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 Coronavirus and Wisconsin Unemployment Benefits for claimants and employers. See the following flow chart: Which Unemployment Program is for You?

Last updated on 11/10/2020 at 11:00 am

The Department of Workforce Development submitted a grant application for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program on August 27, 2020. The grant was approved on September 1, 2020. Go to the Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) page for more information.

Information for Claimants

Topics:  Getting Started  |  Eligibility  |  Small Business Grants  |  Reduced Hours and Shutdowns  |  Quarantined or Sick  |  Updates to Work Status  |  Health and Safety  |  I've Filed My Claim-What Should I Expect?  |  Reopening a Regular UI Claim  |  How to Stop Claims  |  How to Correct Mistakes  |  JCW Registration, Re-employment and Work Search  |  My Account  |  My Benefit Payments

Getting Started

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Apply online at https://dwd.wisconsin.gov/uiben/apply. Once you begin the application, you will be brought to a calendar. Simply choose the correct week you want the claim to begin.

If you must call to apply for benefits, when you reach a claim specialist you will tell them the week you are requesting your claim to begin. It is important to note that benefits will start from the time you became eligible for unemployment, not from the time your application is submitted or approved.

Currently, you may go back to the week of the emergency order to start your initial application without an eligibility issue. Once you begin the claim, you will be brought to a calendar. Simply choose the correct week you want the claim to begin.

This legislation will likely help many people, including people who typically don't qualify for regular Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits (e.g., self-employed, independent contractors). See the following pages for the most up-to-date information on the CARES Act and three new programs:

Individuals should file their claim in the state where they worked.

Eligibility

  • It does not impact state or federal unemployment insurance programs.
  • It does not impact applications submitted or claims pending.
  • Benefits will be paid to eligible claimants.

You will need to report that as a work refusal when filing your initial application or weekly claim. It will create an eligibility issue for regular Unemployment Insurance that must be adjudicated. If you are determined to be ineligible for regular UI, you may be eligible for PUA if your reason for no longer working falls within the one of the COVID-19 scenarios and you meet other qualifying requirements.

You may be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which temporarily expands UI eligibility to those otherwise ineligible for state UI benefits, including those who are self-employed and independent contractors impacted by COVID-19.

Wisconsin unemployment benefits are available to individuals who are unemployed through no fault of their own. If an employer must shut down operations and no work is available, individuals may be eligible for unemployment benefits if they meet the monetary criteria and the weekly eligibility criteria even if their employer has not told them they are laid off.

Students should apply for UI benefits if there is any question on their eligibility. While work for an educational institution while a student there is considered "excluded employment" for purposes of regular UI state benefits, students may have income from other employment that allows them to qualify for regular UI benefits. If a student is denied regular state UI benefits, they may be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).

If an employer now has work for an employee who was laid off or furloughed and that employee is not returning to work due to lack of childcare, they need to report a work refusal and that they are not available for full-time work. Those are eligibility issues that must be adjudicated. If it is determined they are not eligible for regular UI, they may be eligible for PUA if the reason for no longer working falls within the one of the COVID-19 scenarios (one of which is Primary caregiver for child unable to attend school or another facility closed due to COVID-19) and they meet other qualifying requirements.

Unemployment benefits are available to individuals who are totally or partially unemployed due to no fault of their own. In this example, the individual—not the employer—is choosing not to work and, therefore, would be ineligible. However, the facts of each circumstance are important. An investigation would be conducted to determine if you would still be eligible. Please see the Claimant Handbook Part 6 Eligibility Issue, Common Disqualifications.

On your weekly claim for benefits for the week you turned down the offer, you would answer "yes" to the question "During the week, did you refuse any work that was offered to you?"

No. The department has received an unprecedented number of faxes and can't process them immediately upon receipt. We will address these faxes in the order they come in. If you send a second fax, it just duplicates work and delays how quickly we can respond to faxes.

Typically, private schools are subject to UI coverage requirements to the same extent as public schools. If the private school is connected to a church, the work may be excluded. An individual who works in both covered and excluded employment should file a UI claim first as their eligibility for state UI must be evaluated before they may apply for PUA. An individual who works in only excluded employment should file a PUA claim.

For more information regarding employment excluded by statute, please see Section B in Handbook for Employers, Section 2 - Tax, Part 2 on DWD’s website.

Small Business Grants

The PPP pay is considered wages and must be reported on your claim. The wages may reduce benefits payable (based on partial wage formula).

Yes, you may still claim, but are required to report the gross amount of each payment received. You will report it as "other type of pay". You will choose "gift" and report the amount and the name of the employer.

Yes, you may still claim but will need to report on your weekly claim:

  • the gross wages earned and total hours and minutes worked AND
  • the gross amount of the PPP. You will report it as "other type of pay." You will choose "gift" and report the amount and the name of the employer.

Yes, you will need call in to our help center report the gross amount of the back pay and the weeks for which you are being paid.

Yes, you will need call in to our help center to report the gross amount of the back pay and the weeks for which you are being paid. The claims specialist will add your information and if no payment was due you will receive notification of an overpayment by mail.

Reduced Hours and Shutdowns

Yes, with some caveats. You can claim a partial benefit if you are working less than 32 hours in a week or claiming less than $500 in gross wages in a week. Refer to the Handbook for Claimants section about computing partial UI benefits.

Wisconsin unemployment benefits are available to individuals partially unemployed due to working reduced hours. Individuals may be eligible for unemployment benefits if they meet the monetary criteria and the weekly eligibility criteria. Refer to the Handbook for Claimants section about computing partial UI benefits.

If this closure is not during a customary break period, or extends longer than the customary break period, individuals may be eligible for unemployment benefits if they meet the monetary and weekly eligibility criteria.

Wisconsin unemployment benefits are available to individuals who are unemployed through no fault of their own. If an employer must shut down operations and no work is available, individuals may be eligible for unemployment benefits if they meet the monetary criteria and the weekly eligibility criteria.

Quarantined or Sick

In most cases, no. Unemployment benefits are available to individuals who are totally or partially unemployed due to no fault of their own. In this example, the individual—not the employer—is choosing not to work and, therefore, would be ineligible. However, the facts of each circumstance are important. If the employer allowed this individual to telework, they would not qualify for benefits because they would not be unemployed. If the employer required the individual to stay home but did not offer telework, the individual might be eligible for benefits if they met the monetary and weekly eligibility criteria.

If an employee meets the initial eligibility criteria, are able to work although displaying symptoms like a cough/cold or due to exposure and willing to work, but are quarantined by local, state or federal direction or guidance, and intend to return work upon recovery or would be available for work with another employer but for the perceived COVID-19 symptoms, the employee may meet the able and available requirement.

No. The federal requirements mandate that claimants be able to work, available for work, and actively seeking suitable work. If someone is so ill that they are unable to work, they would not meet these criteria.

Updates to Work Status

We understand return to work dates are fluctuating. You do not need to call in if your back to work date has changed; just keep filing weekly certifications as needed.

You do not need to call in or update your separation information have gone from temporary to permanent layoff. Continue filing your weekly certifications as needed.

Health and Safety

Workers who are concerned that their private-sector employer is not keeping their workplace safe from COVID-19 can file a complaint with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Wisconsin is one of more than two dozen states whose workplace safety complaint and enforcement systems are primarily under the federal government's jurisdiction, with public-sector workers covered separately. Additional details and resources are available online.

Employers do have an obligation under the Fair Employment Act to reasonably accommodate workers with disabilities -- including disabilities that might put them at higher risk from COVID-19 infection. Workers with safety concerns due to disability should work with their employer to request and identify appropriate accommodation.

Communication between workers and management – including supervisors, site managers, human resource representatives and health and safety managers – is a critical means to identify and address potential safety and health issues, including potential concerns over COVID-19 at the workplace.

I've Filed My Claim-What Should I Expect?

With the new law, any claimant who filed a new application in the week of March 15, 2020 or later will not have to serve a waiting week.

If you started a new claim in the week of March 15, 2020 or later and already served the waiting week, you will receive back payment for that week.

If you filed a new claim that began prior to UI week 12/20 (3/15/20 through 3/21/20) your waiting week will not be removed. The waiting week removal happened to new claims that began UI week 12/20 (3/15/20 through 3/21/20) and forward.

The system recognizes when you start a claim. As long as you start a claim in the week and complete that claim within 28 days you may still be eligible for benefits.

Mail the documents to:

    Unemployment Insurance
    PO Box 7905
    Madison, WI 53707-7905

How to Stop Claims

You can withdraw your initial application on your own as long as it is the same day you applied. On your summary page under "Summary for" you will find "Important Message: We have received your initial application. Your claim is being processed, to change information or withdraw you claim click here". Click on the link and follow the instructions.

Reopening a Regular UI Claim

If you stopped filing weekly claim certifications and are again unemployed or working reduced hours, you must file a new initial claim.

When you log into your claimant dashboard, depending on your status, the system will display links in the "important message" section. In the example below, the individual's claim is inactive or has ended, so they are prompted to file an initial claim to reactivate their current account:

reopening ui claim

How to Correct Mistakes

Yes, you will have the opportunity to review the initial and weekly claim before submitting. You should go back and review the answers, make corrections if necessary before submitting. You may also want to print a copy of your answers.

Yes, you may click on the link on your summary page and make changes as long as it is the same day as the claim is filed. On your summary page under "Summary for" you will find "Important Message: We have received your initial application. Your claim is being processed, to change information or withdraw you claim click here". After that you will need to contact the UI Help Center.

JCW Registration, Re-employment and Work Search

No. Work searches will be considered satisfied through the week ending February 6, 2021.

Some individuals who apply for Unemployment Insurance (UI) may be required to register with the Job Center of Wisconsin (JCW). You will be notified upon completion of your claim if you are required to complete the registration. More information can be found on our Registration for Work FAQ.

As a result of an Emergency Rule you do not need to do a work search through the week ending February 6, 2021. No action is needed on your part regarding the work search. However, some individuals may be required to register with JCW. These are two separate requirements.

Registration is a requirement of Unemployment Insurance (UI) program and must be completed in order to maintain eligibility for benefits. More information can be found on our Registration for Work FAQ.

Some individuals who apply for UI may be required to participate in the Re-Employment Services program, which provides additional services to help them get back to work more quickly. Previously, the program required participants attend an in-person workshop. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, this workshop will now be conducted remotely over the phone. Participants should watch their email for updates.

All Re-Employment Services sessions scheduled after Friday, March 20, 2020 will be conducted over the phone as "tele-sessions." What participants should know:

  • After registering on JobCenterofWisconsin.com (JCW) and creating a resume, individuals may be asked to view an online orientation and take an assessment.
  • At the end of the assessment, participants will be informed if they must participate in the Re-Employment Services program.
  • Participants will be asked to sign up for a three-hour window for the "tele-session."
  • The participant will be called at some point during the three-hour window they have selected.
  • A presentation will be emailed to the participant prior to the phone call for reference.
  • The participant must be available and answer the phone when called by the Re-Employment Services facilitator.
  • The facilitator will call twice.
  • Failure to answer the phone after the two attempts could result in a loss of UI benefits.
  • The incoming call may be from an "unknown" or "blocked" caller.

It is up the to the participant to ensure their contact information is correct. Contact information can be reviewed on JobCenterofWisconsin.com under "My Account" on the top right of the screen.

If you fail to participate in your mandatory session, you may be denied unemployment benefits unless it is determined you had good cause for missing the session.

Some individuals who apply for UI may be required to participate in the Re-Employment Services program, which provides additional services to help them get back to work more quickly. Previously, the program required participants to attend an in-person workshop. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, this workshop will now be conducted remotely over the phone. Participants should watch their email for updates.

All Re-Employment Services sessions scheduled after Friday, March 20, 2020 will be conducted over the phone as "tele-sessions." What participants should know:

  • After registering on JobCenterofWisconsin.com (JCW) and creating a resume, individuals may be asked to view an online orientation and take an assessment.
  • At the end of the assessment, participants will be informed if they must participate in the Re-Employment Services program.
  • Participants will be asked to sign up for a three-hour window for the "tele-session."
  • The participant will be called at some point during the three-hour window they have selected.
  • A presentation will be emailed to the participant prior to the phone call for reference.
  • The participant must be available and answer the phone when called by the Re-Employment Services facilitator.
  • The facilitator will call twice.
  • Failure to answer the phone after the two attempts could result in a loss of UI benefits.
  • The incoming call may be from an "unknown" or "blocked" caller.

It is up the to the participant to ensure their contact information is correct. Contact information can be reviewed on JobCenterofWisconsin.com under "My Account" on the top right of the screen.

My Account

We have updated our system to now allow you to change your name online. Please log in at https://my.unemployment.wisconsin.gov. Near the top of the page, click on "Unemployment Services" and "Change Personal Information." After you have entered your current information, click on "Next" and continue to follow the prompts.

Disaster Unemployment Assistance is not available. However, if you are not eligible for regular unemployment benefits, you may be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), outlined in the CARES Act (a.k.a. Federal Stimulus Bill).

No, filing for unemployment benefits should not negatively affect a noncitizen's immigration status or result in a public charge bar to residency or other nonimmigration status in the future. To be eligible for unemployment benefits, noncitizen workers have to meet the same requirements as U.S. citizen workers in Wisconsin. Note: To qualify for unemployment benefits, noncitizen residents must be authorized to work in the United States and their wages used to determine eligibility for benefits must be earned while authorized to work in the United States.

The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program provides for an additional 13 weeks of benefits to individuals who have exhausted regular UI. For more information go to https://dwd.wisconsin.gov/uiben/peuc.

My Benefit Payments

If you started a new claim in the week of March 15, 2020 or later and already served the waiting week, you will receive back payment for that week.

Yes, those payments are considered income for federal and state tax purposes. You can ask to have state and federal taxes withheld from your unemployment payments. If you decide to have taxes withheld, we will deduct 10% for federal taxes and/or 5% for state taxes from your weekly benefit payment. You can opt to have taxes withheld at https://my.unemployment.wisconsin.gov.

Do not report your stimulus payment from the Federal Government as wages or income when filing unemployment claims.

No, this type of pay is not reportable as wages/income.

You can update your payment method anytime. To view or update your information, go to the Unemployment Insurance Services menu on your Dashboard. The options are direct deposit and debit card. For more information see https://dwd.wisconsin.gov/uiben/faqs/directdeposit.htm or https://dwd.wisconsin.gov/uiben/faqs/debitcard.htm.

If the Wisconsin UI Trust Fund is exhausted, Wisconsin will need to borrow from the federal government and will continue to pay benefits, as it did during the Great Recession. Unemployment Insurance is experiencing unprecedented claim volume with over 300,000 weekly claims per week. This is 194% higher than the average number of weekly claims received during the first year of the Great Recession.

Due to the uncertain future impacts of COVID-19, it is unknown if Wisconsin will continue to experience this high volume of claims and for how long this may occur. For this reason, it is difficult to project when or even if the UI Trust Fund may exhaust and Wisconsin will need to borrow from the federal government in order to pay benefits. If you are interested in learning more, DWD released three different potential UI Trust Fund exhaustion paths.

A Benefit Amount Reduction (BAR) is a total reduction of benefit rights when there is a finding of fraud (also known as "concealment") in connection with a claim for unemployment compensation. A claimant who has received a determination of concealment is ineligible for future unemployment insurance benefits in an amount of 2, 4, or 8 times their weekly benefit rate for each act of concealment, depending on whether it is the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd (or more) determination of concealment. See Wis. Stat. § 108.04(11)(be). By state statute, a BAR is required for each act of concealment. A BAR makes the claimant ineligible for unemployment benefits. A BAR is not a debt that the Department collects or a penalty that is offset by future claims. Claimants may not “pay” the BAR with money out of pocket to obtain benefit eligibility. This required ineligibility period was enacted by the Legislature in 2012.

It depends. A claimant who has a BAR is not eligible for regular UI and has not received at least one dollar ($1) of regular UI for that week; therefore, the claimant will not receive the FPUC benefit for the claimed regular UI benefit. However, a claimant with a BAR who is not eligible for regular UI may be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) if they meet federal eligibility criteria—including that they are unemployed for one of the COVID-19 reasons identified in the CARES Act and US-DOL guidance. A claimant who is eligible for PUA will also receive the FPUC benefit for the weeks of March 29, 2020 to July 25, 2020.

It depends. A claimant who has a BAR is not eligible for regular UI and is not eligible to receive at least one dollar of regular UI for that week; therefore, the claimant will not receive the LWA benefit for the claimed regular UI benefit. However, a claimant with a BAR who is not eligible for regular UI may be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) if they meet federal eligibility criteria—including that they are unemployed for one of the COVID-19 reasons identified in the CARES Act and US-DOL guidance. A person who is eligible to receive at least $1 per week of PUA may receive LWA.

Information for Employers

Topics:  Unemployment Taxes/Account  |  Employee Eligibility  |  Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)  |  Health and Safety

Unemployment Taxes/Account

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Yes, if their first quarter tax liability is at least $1000, they can defer their first quarter taxes**. They will still need to pay 40% on time, but can spread out the other 60% throughout the year.

Example: Employer owes $1000 for first quarter taxes
40% or $400 due April 30 which is the 1st quarter due date
30% or $300 due July 31*
20% or $200 due October 31
10% or $100 due January 31, 2021

*Some employers pay the full 60% with their second quarter taxes on July 31 since it will be factored into their tax rate for next year.
**The employer also needs to file reports electronically and not have any other outstanding amounts due.

If an employer has wages in the quarter, yes. If an employer has no wages in the quarter, they do not owe unemployment tax for that quarter, and should file a report with zero wages (so no tax due).

If a contribution employer's employees were laid off due to the public health emergency declared by Executive Order 72 and filed initial unemployment claims for weeks after May 16, 2020, the employer may qualify for relief of Unemployment Insurance benefit charging. To request relief of charging, the employer will need to complete a form and submit it to the department by encrypted email. To access the form, go to: https://dwd.wisconsin.gov/uitax/relief-of-charging.htm.

UI is not requiring the employer to file the UCB-18823-E Relief of Charging Due To Public Health Emergency form in order to receive charging relief for employees laid off and filing initial claims during the weeks of the Governor's Executive Order 72, March 15 to May 16, 2020.

The department anticipates that the charging relief will take many months to complete for all employers because it is a manual process. For taxable employers the department promulgated an emergency rule to ensure that benefit charges and adjustments for March 15, 2020 through June 30, 2020 will not affect employer contribution rates for 2021, even if the charging relief is not processed for each employer's account.

The CARES Act provides federal funds to states to reduce by half the liability of reimbursable employers for their claims through December 26, 2020. Under 2019 Act 185, the state will reimburse the remaining half from the Department of Workforce Development's interest and penalties account for benefit charges for initial claims related to the public health emergency declared by Executive Order 72.

Previously, the U.S. Department of Labor determined that employers subject to reimbursable financing must first pay the benefit charges due to the state in full before the federal government will reimburse those amounts. However, due to a new federal law, employers subject to reimbursable financing do not need to pay the state before the federal government will reimburse employers.

Your bill will continue to include 100% of all charges to your account because our billing system has not yet been updated. At this time, you should pay none of the benefit charges for initial claims related to the public health emergency declared by Executive Order 72. You should pay 50% of benefit charges for initial claims that are unrelated to the public health emergency declared by Executive Order 72. Once we have updated our system to reflect correct benefit charging, your account will be updated. We appreciate your patience as this may take many months to complete for all employers, but please be assured your account will be correctly credited.

Also, to request relief of charging under Act 185 for any initial claims filed by your employees for weeks of benefits filed after May 16, 2020, please visit our website at: https://dwd.wisconsin.gov/uitax/relief-of-charging.htm and follow the instructions to complete and submit the form.

UI is not requiring the employer to file the UCB-18823-E Relief of Charging Due To Public Health Emergency form in order to receive charging relief for employees laid off and filing initial claims during the weeks of the Governor's Executive Order 72, March 15 to May 16, 2020.

No. The department has received an unprecedented number of faxes and can't process them immediately upon receipt. We will address these faxes in the order they come in. If you send a second fax, it just duplicates work and delays how quickly we can respond to faxes.

Employee Eligibility

Wisconsin unemployment benefits are available to individuals who are unemployed through no fault of their own. If an employer must shut down operations and no work is available, individuals may be eligible for unemployment benefits if they meet the monetary criteria and the weekly eligibility criteria.

In most cases, no. Unemployment benefits are available to individuals who are totally or partially unemployed due to no fault of their own. In this example, the individual—not the employer—is choosing not to work and, therefore, would be ineligible. However, the facts of each circumstance are important. If the employer allowed this individual to telework, they would not qualify for benefits because they would not be unemployed. If the employer required the individual to stay home but did not offer telework, the individual might be eligible for benefits if they met the monetary and weekly eligibility criteria.

If an employee meets the initial eligibility criteria, are able to work although displaying symptoms like a cough/cold or due to exposure and willing to work, but are quarantined by local, state or federal direction or guidance, and intend to return work upon recovery or would be available for work with another employer but for the perceived COVID-19 symptoms, the employee may meet the able and available requirement.

No. The federal requirements mandate that claimants be able to work, available for work, and actively seeking suitable work. If someone is ill, they would not meet these criteria.

In most cases, no. Unemployment benefits are available to individuals who are totally or partially unemployed due to no fault of their own. In this example, the individual—not the employer—is choosing not to work and, therefore, would be ineligible. However, the facts of each circumstance are important. An investigation would be conducted to determine if the employee would still be eligible. Please see the Claimant Handbook Part 6 Eligibility Issue, Common Disqualifications.

UI Employers can report individuals who are filing for UI but have refused a job offer by visiting https://unemployment.wisconsin.gov/employerfeedbackform.

You will choose "Report Individual Who Refused Work" and be prompted to answer several questions regarding the individual who refused the work, and the job offer itself. A confirmation email is sent to the person submitting the information. The reported information is sent to a UI Job Refusal Mailbox, prompting the creation of an eligibility issue on the individual's claim that will need adjudication.

UI Employers can also contact the UI Help Center (Employer Assistance Line), (414) 438-7705.

Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)

The employees will need to report the gross income/hours and minutes the pay represents on the weekly claims. It is considered wages and will be used in determining if any benefits are payable to them.

Health and Safety

Communication between workers and management – including supervisors, site managers, human resource representatives and health and safety managers – is a critical means to identify and address potential safety and health issues, including potential concerns over COVID-19 at the workplace.