A Guide to Applying for Unemployment Benefits in Wisconsin

Here’s everything that you need to know about applying for unemployment benefits in Wisconsin right now.

Over 100,000 people have filed for unemployment in Wisconsin over the past nine days. With the new “safer-at-home” order in place, this pause in economic activity is likely to continue for some time, and many workers are facing layoffs, furloughs and business closings.

Unemployment benefits are available and the restrictions to receive them are somewhat lifted during this emergency. Benefits are not guaranteed, as each case is reviewed individually.

Here’s what you need to do to apply:

First – you don’t have to be fully unemployed to apply. If your hours have been reduced, you can apply as a partially unemployed person. Also, if you’ve been furloughed, temporarily laid off or kept away from work due to quarantining, and are planning to return after your quarantine ends, you could also be eligible for benefits during this period of unemployment.

Crucially, you need to apply for benefits the first week that you’re unemployed. The week you apply is the week your claim begins, so if you wait a week or two, then that’s time wasted and money you don’t receive.

Before the coronavirus outbreak, a person receiving benefits needed to conduct at least four “work search actions” every week to continue receiving them, but Governor Evers’ emergency order just removed this requirement, so you can apply without completing it.

The Department for Workforce Development website continues to update its news tab and other links to reflect the ongoing coronavirus changes.

You can access the application at my.unemployment.wisconsin.gov.

You’ll need to create an account, unless you have an existing one from a previous claim. This means you’ll need to create a username and password and provide a valid email or mobile number as well.

Once you have your account, and you’re unemployed (or partially unemployed), you can apply. Your application has to be approved before any benefits will be given out.

To apply, you’ll need:

  • Your social security number
  • Your current address
  • Your Wisconsin driver’s license or identification card number
  • Your work history for the previous 18 months. This includes:
    • Employers’ business names, addresses, and phone numbers.
    • The first and last dates of employment for each job
    • The reason you’re no longer working with each employer

Depending on your circumstances, you may need more. If you’re not a U.S. citizen, you’ll need your alien registration number, document number and expiration date. If you served in the military in the last 18 months, you’ll need your Form DD-214 (Member 4 copy). And if you’re a union member, you’ll need the name and local number of your union hall.

You’ll also need to apply with the Job Center of Wisconsin within 14 days of submitting your claim to receive benefits. The Job Center collects job listings, helps connect employers with workers and provides other resources for the unemployed.

There is currently a one-week wait period for unemployment benefits, but that may change soon as Evers has asked the state legislature to repeal that in the face of the sudden and ongoing surge in unemployment.

If your application is approved, you’ll then have to continually file a weekly claim certification for as long as you want to continue receiving your weekly benefit. The certification is needed to release the payment, so you have to be sure to file this every week.

The DWD provides an online weekly benefit rate calculator that allows you to enter your gross wages for each quarter of the year and calculate an approximation of what you might receive in a benefit. One example: if you received $8750 each quarter from your employer for a total of $35000, then your estimated weekly benefit rate is $350.

The actual formula for how they calculate your earnings and benefit entitlement is complicated and multi-faceted beyond the scopes of this article, so here is a link to the DWD page outlining that.

The basic Wisconsin program provides unemployment insurance for up to 26 weeks, but if you meet necessary criteria that period can go up to 86 weeks. Each case will be different.



Archer is the managing editor at Milwaukee Magazine. Some say he is a great warrior and prophet, a man of boundless sight in a world gone blind, a denizen of truth and goodness, a beacon of hope shining bright in this dark world. Others say he smells like cheese.