Complete Guide on Wisconsin Unemployment Benefits and How to File for Them

FT Contributor
An unemployed woman with empty pockets.
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Wisconsin residents may file for unemployment benefits to help cover their cost of living after they lose their job through no fault of their own. If you find yourself unemployed, you can apply for unemployment with the Unemployment Insurance Division of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD).

Every state offers unemployment insurance or operates a similar program to support jobless people while they search for new employment. Wisconsin’s program is similar to many other places, but you need to understand the details related to eligibility, the application process, and the nuances of the system to be sure that you get the benefits you deserve.

Wisconsin Unemployment Benefits Eligibility

You need to meet specific eligibility requirements to qualify for unemployment insurance in Wisconsin. The Department of Workforce Development looks at your past earnings, the reason for your unemployment, your ability to work, your willingness to seek employment, and your current employment status.

You need to meet requirements in all these areas to have your application approved.

Past Earnings

You must meet earnings requirements to qualify for unemployment. The DWD looks at your previous employment year, or base year, which is the earliest four of the five quarters before the current quarter. You need to have worked during at least two of the four quarters during your base year.

Also, you need to meet earnings requirements during the quarters that you had a job. Your earnings during your highest-earning quarter will provide the basis for your weekly payment. The DWD has a worksheet that tells you how much you need to earn and how much you will receive in unemployment benefits.  

Wisconsin uses a weekly benefit rate (WBR) figure, which is 4% of the amount you made during your highest-earning quarter during the base year. The minimum WBR is $52. To get a WBR of $52, you need to have earned at least $1,350 during your highest-earning quarter. The maximum WBR is $370, which is 4% of $9,250. If you received more than $9,250 during your highest-earning quarter, you are not eligible for unemployment benefits.

Unemployed Through No Fault of Your Own

In Wisconsin, to qualify for unemployment benefits, you need to prove that you lost your job through no fault of your own. If you got laid off or let go because of company downsizing, for example, you qualify for unemployment insurance.

You do not qualify if you quit, unless you left because of extenuating circumstances, such as to care for an ill family member.

If you got fired, you might qualify for unemployment. For example, if you got fired because your skills became obsolete, or you no longer had the qualifications for the job, you can generally qualify for benefits. However, if you got fired because of misconduct or not complying with company policies or rules, you cannot get unemployment benefits in Wisconsin.

Totally or Partially Unemployed

You need to be fully unemployed or partially employed to qualify for unemployment. You cannot apply while you are receiving income from your employer. If your employer is paying you for vacation or sick days or paid time off, you are not eligible for unemployment benefits.

You can receive partial benefits if you continue to work part time or if you find a part-time job during your job search. You need to report any income weekly when you reapply for benefits. The state will adjust your payments accordingly.

You Must Be Able to Work

You need to be physically and mentally able to work in order to get unemployment benefits. Also, you need to take steps to find a job while you receive unemployment benefits in Wisconsin. Wisconsin requires that you contact potential employers each week. Typically, you need to keep a record of the employers who you contact and provide evidence when requested.

How to File for Unemployment in Wisconsin

You can complete an application for unemployment benefits on the Wisconsin DWD website. You need to collect the following data when you prepare to file for unemployment benefits:

  • You have to create a username and password to apply online. You will use these to access your account, enter new information each week, or make an appeal, if necessary.
  • You need a valid email address or phone number, and you must provide a mailing address to receive documents.
  • You also must provide your Social Security number.
  • During the application process, you need to provide your work history for the past 18 months, including employers’ names, contact information, dates of employment, and your reason for leaving.
  • If you are not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, you need to provide documents that prove your eligibility to work in the U.S. and Wisconsin.  

Appealing a Denial

Wisconsin allows you to lodge an appeal if your application for unemployment benefits gets denied. You can file an appeal online using the same account and login information that you provided when applying for unemployment benefits. You can also appeal via fax or mail.

When appealing the decision, you need to provide your case number and your name and Social Security number. You also have to provide a copy of the determination letter (if applying by mail or fax), and any information relevant to the appeal hearing, such as any witnesses who you will bring to testify on your behalf.

When Will I Get Paid?

The initial determination usually takes seven days from the time you submit your application.

In most cases, your weekly payment comes approximately three weeks after your initial application.

Wisconsin has a one-week waiting period. Because of this period, you do not get paid during the first week that you are eligible. However, for every week that you apply for benefits after that, you will receive a payment approximately seven days after submitting your weekly claim.

Claim Your Weeks

You claim your weeks of unemployment benefits by providing the necessary information and updates to qualify for weekly payments. It is easiest to submit this information online using the username, password, and account that you made during your initial application.

You need to report any earnings and job search activities for the week. You also want to actively look for a job and supply the state with the names of employers you contacted during the week. The DWD may communicate with the employer to check that you contacted them.

Since you need to meet these requirements weekly, you should deal with any issues promptly to avoid missing the requirements for your weekly payment.  

Available Unemployment Benefits in Wisconsin

The amount of employment benefits you receive depends on your previous and current earnings. The state also offers assistance for job seekers and opportunities for those who need help finding a new job.

Benefits Available

The amount of benefits you’ll receive depends on your earnings during the four-quarter base period. The maximum benefit amount (MBA) is the lesser of 26 times your WBR (4% of your earnings during your highest-earning quarter) or 40% of your earnings during the entire four-quarter base period.

You can earn unemployment benefits for 26 weeks, so if you divide your MBA into 26 parts, you’ll find your weekly payment amount.

Benefits Extensions

Unemployment benefits last for 26 weeks. You need to have found a job by that time. If you have not, you may be able to apply for an extension in some states. In Wisconsin, however, no extension benefits are currently available.

Work Search

You need to perform a work search to qualify for benefits. The state offers resources to help job seekers seek employment. However, in some situations, such as during a national or state emergency, you do not have to perform job searches to get unemployment benefits.

Registration for Work

To receive benefits, you need to register with Wisconsin Job Service within 14 days of your initial application. You can register through the Job Center of Wisconsin website. If you fail to register, you lose your eligibility for unemployment benefits.

Re-Employment Services

The Wisconsin Re-Employment Services program helps unemployed people create targeted job searches and take other steps to expedite their employment search process. After registering through the Job Center of Wisconsin website, you complete an assessment and orientation to determine which services you need in order to accelerate your job search or get support if you have been in between jobs for a long time.

The Re-Employment Services program may assign you additional requirements that you need to complete to continue receiving unemployment benefits. These requirements vary depending on your initial assessment and current employment search criteria.

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