Wisconsin Unemployment Benefits and Eligibility

Calendar Icon Updated March 26, 2020

The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Unemployment Insurance Division is responsible for administering unemployment benefits for citizens in the state. These Wisconsin unemployment insurance funds are available to residents who lose their jobs through no fault of their own.

In addition to providing monetary benefits, the UI Division also helps jobseekers find employment through a variety of services that encompass job search, preparation and training activities.

How Unemployment Works in Wisconsin

And How To Get Unemployment in Wisconsin

  1. If you have lost your job, you should apply for Wisconsin unemployment as soon as possible. Delaying a Wisconsin unemployment application will only create a gap between when you became unemployed and began receiving benefits, and the state does not offer backpayments.
  2. If you meet Wisconsin unemployment requirements, you likely qualify for benefits. The Wisconsin unemployment department will contact you if you are eligible or if your benefits request has been denied.
  3. If you meet Wisconsin unemployment benefits eligibility, you are entitled to receive funds for up to 26 weeks. Wisconsin unemployment compensation can be anywhere between $54 and $340 per week.
  4. If you do not meet Wisconsin unemployment qualifications and your claim is rejected, you legally have the right to file an appeal. This takes place over the phone with a judge and other unemployment representatives.
  5. To get your benefits and maintain Wisconsin unemployment eligibility, you must register with the state’s Job Service department. This Wisconsin unemployment office will help you find new work.
  6. You will be required to submit Wisconsin unemployment weekly claims to show that you are searching for new work. If your benefits run out before you find a new job, you may consider filing a Wisconsin unemployment extension, though know that these are granted only during special circumstances.

Wisconsin Unemployment Eligibility Requirements

To file a new claim or to reapply for claim benefits in Wisconsin, you must meet several criteria:

  • You must be out of work through no fault of your own.  If you were laid off or were part of a reduction-in-force action, or were let go for economic reasons, you will qualify for benefits.  If you were fired because you lacked the appropriate skills to do your job correctly or you simply were not a good fit, then you will also still be eligible to receive UI benefits.  However, if you were fired for misconduct or you quit your job, you won’t be eligible for benefits, unless you can show good cause, such as an employer asking you to do something illegal.
  • You must file a weekly claim within 14 days of the end of the calendar week that you are claiming.  A calendar week always starts on Sunday and ends on Saturday.  You are not able to file a claim for your week until after the week has ended.  You can either do so online or by calling the Wisconsin unemployment phone number.  If you do not meet the 14-day window, the system will not let you file a claim for that week and you will need to reactivate your claim.
  • You must be in the United States, a US territory or Canada to certify for benefits.  If you attempt to do so from anywhere else, your certification will be blocked and your benefits will be frozen.  If you certify that you are ready and able to work while you are out of the country, or giving your credentials to someone else to certify on your behalf, you may incur severe penalties including loss of benefits, monetary penalties and criminal prosecution.
  • You must file a weekly claim certification online.  You will need to answer several questions to verify that you are eligible for benefits for the week.  You are responsible for answering the questions fully and accurately.  Failure to do so could result in a loss or withholding of benefits in Wisconsin.
  • You must be ready, willing and able to work full time for the week you are claiming benefits.  Full-time work is defined as 32 hours or more if work had been available to you.  If you are offered a suitable position, you must accept it.
  • You must have attempted to contact at least four employers to try and find work during the week.  Keep a record of your job search activities because the DWD may attempt to contact potential employers to verify that you have made an effort to find work.
  • You must meet minimum wage levels from your recent work history as defined by your base period.  As base period is the earliest four of the five complete calendar quarters before you filed your claim for UI benefits.
  • You must have earned wages in at least two of the quarters in your base year.

Click Here for our Guide: 5 Things You Need to Know Before Filing Unemployment

How to File a Wisconsin Unemployment Claim

The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development requires that claims for unemployment insurance must be filed online.  To file a claim, go here and follow the required steps.

To save you time when you file a claim, you should gather the following information in advance:

  • A valid email or mobile phone number
  • Your Social Security Number
  • Your current address
  • A Wisconsin driver’s license or other state issued identification number
  • Your work history dating back 18 months, including all employers’ names, addresses, phone numbers, dates working for each employer and the reason you are no longer with each employer
  • If you are not a U.S. citizen, you must provide your alien registration number, document number and expiration date
  • If you served in the military at any point in the past 18 months, you will need to provide a Form DD-214
  • If you are a federal civilian employee, you need to provide a Form SF-50 or SF-8
  • If you belong to a union, you must provide the name and local number of your union hall

For help using online services, or if you have a hardship that prevents you from filing online, call 414-438-7713 or 608-232-0824 during normal business hours.

Make sure you file a claim as soon as you become unemployed.  You will cost yourself benefits if you delay.  Also, remember that Wisconsin has a one week waiting period, and you must file a claim for that one week, even though you will collect no benefits.

After you file Wisconsin unemployment paperwork, it will be processed and you will receive a notification detailing the Wisconsin unemployment amount you can get amount for the year and your weekly benefit amount, assuming you claim no wages.

You will use this same system to log on and claim weekly benefits for the duration of your unemployment.

It is also important to note that no Wisconsin unemployment benefits will be paid until you are fully registered with the Wisconsin Job Service.  You must do this within 14 days of filing your initial claim.

When do I get paid my unemployment?  How are WI unemployment payments made?

Like most other states, Wisconsin has a one week waiting period before your benefits kick in.  After the waiting week has been claimed, UI payments are usually made within 7 days after a completed claim has been accepted.  However, a claim could be denied or delayed for a number of reasons, such as if your claim is incomplete or there is a question regarding your Wisconsin unemployment eligibility for the week.

It is important to note that even if you submit a claim on the same time and the same day every week that you are eligible, you are not guaranteed that you will be paid on the same day or within the same amount of time each week.  Processing times can vary, and you will need to be patient while the system processes your claim.

If you do not receive a payment or an explanation within 7 days of filing a claim, you need to check the status of your claim online or call the Automated Inquiry System.

The state of Wisconsin unemployment department phased out paper checks some time ago and now only issues payments either by direct deposit into your bank account or by loading funds on to a Visa pre-paid debit card.

You can enroll in direct deposit by going here and selecting Payment Method Option.  You can also enroll in direct deposit by completing a Direct Deposit Authorization form found here.  You will need to provide a voided check or other document from your financial institution that shows the bank routing number and the account where you want the deposit to be made.

If you prefer to receive payments using a Visa pre-paid debit card, funds will be deposited to the card and will be immediately available for use anywhere that Visa debit cards are accepted.  For more information about the debit card, go here.

How much I be paid each week on WI unemployment? What are the weekly limits for unemployment payments in Wisconsin?

You are entitled to a Weekly Benefit Rate which is the Wisconsin unemployment amount of unemployment insurance benefits you are paid when you have no other earnings in a specific week.  It is 4% of the total high quarter wages from all qualifying employment during your base year.

The Wisconsin unemployment rate provides up to 26 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits with a maximum amount of $370 per week and a minimum amount of $54 per week.

To find out specifically how much your benefit will be, the WDW has prepared a Weekly Benefit Rate Chart that shows the amount of high quarter wages need for each rate.  To access the chart, go here.

During each 52-week period that you file for benefits, known as a Benefit Year, there is a maximum amount of benefits that you can be paid.  Once this threshold has been met, you cannot receive any additional benefits until a new Benefit Year kicks in.

You will not be paid any benefits for a week in which your combined earnings, holiday pay, sick or vacation pay or termination earnings exceed $500, or if you worked 32 hours or more during the week.

You should also be aware that if WDW receives a child support order, then money must be withheld from your payment to meet this obligation.  You will be advised in writing if and when this is the case, and if you disagree with the decision, you must contact the child support agency to dispute the findings and change or stop the deduction.

Looking for a job while claiming Wisconsin benefits

To remain eligible to collect unemployment insurance benefits, you must conduct an active job search.  Unless otherwise specified, you are required to perform at least four work search actions each week that you claim benefits.

In addition to other search activities, you are required to register with the Wisconsin Job Service within 14 days of filing your initial unemployment claim.  This state-run job service offers many valuable resources to help seekers find a job as quickly as possible.  To register, go online here.  You will be required to set up a profile, register for services and complete a resume, so it is best to have that information readily available before logging in.

If you have questions or need assistance registering, you can call the Job Service Call Center at 1-888-258-9966 or you can visit a local Job Center with offices located throughout the state.  To find the nearest Wisconsin unemployment office locations for the Job Center, go here.

Examples of valid and non-valid work search activities include:

Valid Search Activities

  • Mandatory Job Center of Wisconsin registration
  • Submitting an application or a resume to an employer
  • Taking a civil service exam
  • Registering with a job placement or head hunting firm
  • Posting a resume on a job board or employment website
  • Meeting with a career counselor
  • Taking part in a professional networking opportunity
  • Completing a job interview
  • Taking the WorkKeys exam

Non-valid Search Activities

  • Submitting an application to an employer that is not reasonable based on your work history, skills, training and experience.
  • Submitting an application or resume to the same employer within a 4 week time frame.  The exception here is this becomes a valid activity if a new job opening is posted or becomes available.
  • Reviewing job leads either online, in newspapers or through other means, but not actually applying for a position
  • Contacting an employer who does not have any current job openings

To ensure that you get proper credit for your job search activities, make sure you keep a log detailing what the activity was, who you contacted and other specifics so that contacts can be verified by the WDW.

The DWD also runs a job search website that allows job seekers to search for jobs, conduct employment research, build a resume, provide information for job seekers that have disabilities, are ex-offenders or veterans, and search for information on apprenticeship programs.  To access the job search page, go here.

What options do I have if I am denied my unemployment? How to file an appeal for Wisconsin unemployment benefits.

If you apply for UI benefits and you are denied, Wisconsin unemployment laws provide you the right to file an appeal.  Common reasons for denial include failing to meet earnings requirements during your base year, you quit or were fired from your last position, you refused appropriate work, or you did not meet job search minimum requirements after opening a claim.

If you are denied, you will get a written explanation from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development giving you instructions on how to file an appeal.

You can file your appeal online, by mail, fax or in person.  The letter you receive from DWD will also include the deadline that you must file your appeal.

While you are appealing your decision, you should continue Wisconsin unemployment claim filing, keep looking for work and keep detailed records of your activities.  The reason for this is that if you win your appeal, you can be granted benefits retroactively, as long as you have met all eligibility requirements for the weeks you are claiming.

After you file your appeal, you will be given a hearing in front of an administrative law judge (ALJ) that may take place either in person or by phone.  You may hire an attorney to represent you and be prepared to present all the evidence you have to support your case for benefits.  After the hearing, the judge will issue a written decision.

If the ruling goes against you, you can appeal that decision to the Wisconsin Labor and Industry Review Commission.  This appeal must be made within 21 days of the mailing date of the judge’s decision.  If the Commission rules against you, the last level of appeal at your disposal is to take your case to the Wisconsin Circuit Court.

For more information on the state of Wisconsin’s Unemployment Insurance Program

If you have more in-depth questions regarding Wisconsin unemployment, contact the state agency through the following resources:

To apply online through the Wisconsin unemployment website for either a new claim or to reopen an existing claim:

Go to my.unemployment.wisconsin.gov and follow the instructions.

You can apply during the following hours:
Sunday:  9 am to 5 pm
Monday – Friday:  6 am to 7 pm
Saturday: 9 am to 2:30 pm

To access information about your benefit account:

Go to my.unemployment.wisconsin.gov and log on to your account.
Online account information is available during the following hours:
Sunday:  9 am to midnight
Monday – Friday:  1 am to midnight
Saturday: 9 am to 3 pm

If you can’t use online services, you can also call the automated Wisconsin unemployment number at 414-438-7713 or 608-232-0824 during the same hours as above.

To file a Wisconsin unemployment weekly claim:

Go to my.unemployment.wisconsin.gov and log on to your account.
You can file Wisconsin unemployment weekly claims during the following hours
Sunday:  9 am to midnight
Monday – Friday:  1 am to midnight
Saturday: 9 am to 3 pm

If you can’t use the Wisconsin unemployment weekly claim online services, you can also call the automated telephone system at 414-438-7713 or 608-232-0824 during the same hours as above.

For help using online services, call:

414-438-7713 or 608-232-0824, Monday-Friday, 7:45 am to 4:30 pm.

If you have a disability and need help accessing information in an alternate format, call 414-438-7713, 608-232-0824 or TTY 1-888-393-8914 during business hours.

Eligibility Team

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