Evers’ DWD breakdown pushed jobless to brink of homelessness

There have been many — too many — heartbreaking stories of Wisconsinites stuck in Gov. Tony Evers’ failed Department of Workforce Development Unemployment Insurance system. Holly Reitz is among the more heartbreaking. 

Reitz, a veteran and single mother of two boys, was working at a southeast Wisconsin school district in March 2020 when the pandemic struck and Evers’ ordered Wisconsin schools to shut down in-person education. The Brookfield woman, who had not long before gotten her teaching degree, was offered an opportunity to work summer school in the district, but that fell through. 

Reitz applied for unemployment benefits in March and April, according to legislative documents. By mid-August, the single mom was facing eviction. She couldn’t pay the rent. Her unemployment claims had yet to be processed. She reached out to the office of  Sen. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) in desperation. 

Kelly Walton, a Milwaukee mother of two, was locked in the same position. Walton, according to the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, contracted COVID-19 in the first weeks of the outbreak while working at a nursing home. She was hospitalized for three weeks. 

Out of work, Walton applied for unemployment and waited months for UI payments. She received a five-day eviction notice in August. 

A state audit in December laid bare the myriad failures of Evers’ DWD, most glaringly that the agency did not resolve issues with claims “even though it had the information to do so and because DWD had not requested information it needed from individuals and employers.”

For claimants like Reitz and Walton, facing homelessness, that kind of government failure is all the more heartbreaking. 

Failing Our Families