Unemployment changes kick in
JANESVILLE With the new year comes a change in the unemployment benefits collected by displaced Wisconsin workers.
A new state budget provision requires a one-week waiting period before unemployed workers can collect unemployment benefits.
Lawmakers made the change as part of the 2011-13 biennial budget, meaning Wisconsin will join more than three dozen states that already had waiting periods. Officials said the delay would save more than $45 million a year.
John Dipko, communications director for the state Department of Workforce Development, answered questions about the changes:
Q: What's new this year?
A: The 2011 budget established a "waiting week" when unemployment benefits will not be paid.
In Wisconsin, people who are laid off are eligible for 86 weeks of unemployment and a maximum weekly benefit of $363.
State officials have said the waiting week will give them more time to determine eligibility and reduce improper payments. It also will push payments back and therefore help the state budget.
Q: What is a waiting week?
A: The waiting week is the first week of an individual's benefit year during which the individual would otherwise be eligible for regular benefits.
Q: When does the waiting week take effect?
A: While the new law started Jan. 1, 2012, don't let the calendar year be your guide.
A waiting week is the first week of unemployment in an individual's benefit year. A benefit year starts when a new initial claim application is filed, and it lasts for 52 weeks. When one benefit year ends, the next year starts when a new claim is filed.
Anyone who started their current benefit year before Jan. 1, 2012, will not have a waiting week until after they finish their current 52-week benefit year and start anew.
It's easier to understand for displaced workers on prolonged or continued layoff, those that go weeks in a row collecting benefits.
It's more difficult, Dipko said, for those who face periodic furloughs that might involve a week and a week there.
Dipko said the department is notifying past unemployment recipients when their benefit year starts and stops so they will have a better idea when to expect a waiting week.
Q: Should I still file for benefits, even though I'm facing a waiting week?
A: Yes. While you won't receive any benefits for that week, the department will count it as your waiting week as long as you were normally eligible for benefits. Doing so makes you eligible for benefits the next time you're displaced, presuming it's in the same benefit year.
Dipko said people who are displaced for less than a week and think they’re eligible for benefits should file, provided they’re be out of work for more than an 8-hour workday.
Q: Where can I get more information?
A: For general questions on unemployment benefits and the waiting week, visit dwd.wisconsin.gov/uiben/faq_waiting.htm. To find out when your benefit year starts, visit ucclaim-wi.org/internetinitialclaims/default.asp.