Wisconsin fails single mom, cancer survivor

MADISON — Dawn Gleason, a single mom and breast cancer survivor, had enough challenges in her life before the pandemic hit. Then Gov. Tony Evers’ dysfunctional Department of Workforce Development would make her life a struggle for survival. 

The Franklin, Wis. woman was manager of a limousine dispatch provider in March 2020 when the COVID-19 outbreak and Evers’ statewide lockdown cost Gleason her job. Like hundreds of thousands of out-of-work Wisconsinites, she filed for unemployment benefits. When the first round ran out in December, she was eligible for extended payments.  

Gleason ran into a bureaucratic brick wall, however, when she reached out to DWD again in late December. She experienced first-hand the kind of abject incompetence tens of thousands of her fellow claimants have endured — month after month after month. 

“First the unemployment office said I was eligible. Then I wasn’t. Then they said I owed them money,” she recalled. 

It was yet another of the untold errors from Evers’ bungling Unemployment Insurance division. A DWD claim specialist told Gleason she would have to return approximately $1,800 of her benefits because the federal agency that administered the special Lost Wages Assistance program was taking the money back. That wasn’t correct. Someone got some bad information. But Gleason and others in her predicament were made to wait because DWD employees didn’t have their facts straight. 

That has been a common refrain about a government agency that failed to prepare for the predictable consequences of Evers’ extended stay-at-home orders in the first months of the pandemic. 

Things went from bad to worse for the single mom. 

“All this time the bills are piling up and so I just have to ignore the ones I can,” Gleason said. “In the meantime, I’m calling. I’m calling daily. I want to know where the money is. I want to know when I can expect it.” 

She never gets the same answer twice. It’s always different. Always. 

And the days turn into weeks, then the weeks turn into months. Gleason’s financial desperation grows. 

“We have no money for things that we need,” she said, adding that she has had to borrow from family and friends just to stay in her home. “I’m raising a child, I’m battling cancer. It was terrible.” 

When you have nothing, birthday presents for your children don’t make the expenses cut. That’s a devastating reality for a mom who dearly lovers her child. 

Gleason said Evers has failed to act with a “sense of urgency” throughout Wisconsin’s unemployment crisis. She wants the governor to know that he let her and so many jobless Wisconsinites down. 

“This is not something you play with,” Gleason said. “This is people’s lives you’re affecting. You’re affecting my life. This deeply affects me, my child, my entire world.” 

Failing Our Workers