The column below reflects the views of the author, and these opinions are neither endorsed nor supported by WisOpinion.com.
As a 76-year-old Gillett, Wisconsin native and military veteran, I have been suffering from severe asthma for over a decade; and, since 2016 I have had three respiratory failures with emergency room stays in Sheboygan Aurora Hospital’s ICU and ventilators.
To compound my problem, I lost my consultant job (after ten years) with a Wall Street firm on January 1st. As an independent contractor, I started to look for employment or starting a 501c3 dealing with practical environmental issues that I had been doing since 2001, when I started with Orion Energy Systems as VP of Communications: It is a WI company that went public in 2008. After retiring in 2009 at almost 65, I began consulting as The Word Merchant, LLC.
On April 5, I applied for WI Unemployment and on April 23rd I began the process of applying for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. Then, the nightmare began. I applied three or four more times for PUA, but none of the state PUA advisors or I could figure how to fill out the complex paperwork properly, until early August when I received guidance from an experienced state PUA employee.
After waiting for two more months on October 11, I was informed by Office of Adjudication that my application was denied with scant reason why I was denied. Immediately, I submitted a request for an appeal, But, for the last five weeks,I haven’t been notified when I can make my official appeal
In desperation, I joined a Wisconsin Unemployment support group with many thousands of unemployed people: I am finding out that several thousand of Wisconsin unemployment have yet to have their applications adjudicated. In fact to this day, I have never been able to get through to their adjudication office and I have tried many, many, many times.
All said, I have waited for 6 months for the final word on PUA money and I have been 10 months without a paycheck. Now, with my creditors hounding me, I am appealing to you Governor Evers and your staff to help me and all other unemployed Wisconsin citizens who need your help.
For the record, like the rest of the US, we were all caught off guard by the speed and severity of the COVID-19 Pandemic, and Wisconsin was no exception.
Starting in February, the growing unemployment problem in the state demonstrated how ill-prepared the State’s technology, software, and infrastructure was. There were rumors that the State still had 50 year old software and its 1990’s telecommunication system.
In addition, it was forced to hire thousands of temporary workers to start sorting out the problems that the Pandemic brought, like the policies dealing with the WI Unemployment Applications and the newly-created Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, under the CARES Act and its regulations signed into law on March 27, 2020.
Nonetheless, I am a 76-year-old poster child for the PUA Program.
–Heins or The Word Merchant, writes Op-Ed pieces on the EPA, DOE, “cooperative federalism,’ U.S. electrical grid, state utility commissions, fracking and natural gas revolution. Previously, Heins was vice president of corporate communication and government affairs for Plymouth-based Orion Energy Systems for almost eight years ending January 2009.