Department of Workforce Development

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Tony Evers’ administration plans to clarify questions on unemployment benefit applications starting this spring as it wrestles with a massive backlog of unprocessed claims resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

The Department of Workforce Development announced the revisions Monday evening. The department has tweaked initial and weekly claim applications to feature what it’s calling “plain language.” Department officials say the language is intended to be clear to everyone, regardless of their education and cultural backgrounds, and should help applicants understand questions and avoid erroneous answers that could prompt investigations and delay processing.

The department is seeking public feedback on the changes. People can view a draft of the new applications on the department’s website and leave comments through Jan. 8. It plans to begin reprogramming its systems with the new applications and hopes to begin posting them for use in March.

The DWD has been flooded with tens of thousands of unemployment benefit claims as businesses across the state have closed or laid off employees due to the pandemic, resulting in a massive backlog of applications. Evers has taken criticism from Republicans for months over his administration’s inability to eliminate it.

Also on Monday, U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, a Milwaukee Democrat, announced she has tested positive for the virus. Moore, 69, said she is in isolation but feels well.

Meanwhile, clinicians had to discard about 500 doses of the Moderna vaccine at Aurora Medical Center in Grafton after they were left unrefrigerated for too long. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that someone removed 50 vials from a refrigerator to access other items and failed to put them back overnight Friday. Each vial contained 10 doses of vaccine.

Clinicians were still able to administer some of the vaccine from the vials within the allowable 12 hour post-refrigeration window but had to discard most of it. Once the vaccine is thawed, it cannot be refrozen.

Advocate Aurora Health says it has vaccinated about 17,000 of its employees in the last 12 days.