Wisconsin Unemployment Benefits and Eligibility

In this article...
  • Find out if you're eligible to receive unemployment benefits in the state of Wisconsin, and learn how much money you can get each week while you're out of work.

When you're between jobs, it can take time to find a new position. If you live and work in Wisconsin, the state's unemployment insurance can help. As long as you're eligible, it provides money each week to help you keep up with expenses. The program isn't need-based, and it comes at no cost to you; it's paid for by employers and administered by the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD).

Who Is Eligible for Unemployment Benefits in Wisconsin

Before you fill out a claim for unemployment, make sure you meet Wisconsin's eligibility standards. To continue receiving benefits, you'll also need to maintain and verify your eligibility on a weekly basis.

Eligibility Criteria

Wisconsin's unemployment program has a few overarching requirements. You must:

  • Have worked in the state within the last year
  • Be out of a job or partially unemployed due to a layoff or another approved reason
  • Meet Wisconsin's minimum wage requirements
  • Be available for full-time work (32 hours per week, in some cases)
  • Actively search for suitable work while receiving benefits

Approved Reasons for Leaving a Job

You can only get unemployment benefits in Wisconsin if you're out of work for an approved reason, such as if you were laid off, the company relocated or your seasonal job ended.

If you're fired or you quit, the state will interview you and your last employer, and someone from the DWD will contact you within 21 days to set up a phone call. Based on the results of the investigation, they'll determine whether you qualify.

Things that usually disqualify you from receiving unemployment include:

  • Quitting without a good cause
  • Getting fired for misconduct
  • Getting fired for an at-fault reason

Wisconsin Wage Requirements

To understand wage requirements, you'll need to figure out your base period. The state uses one of two methods:

  • Standard base period: Quarters 1-4 of the last five complete calendar-year quarters
  • Alternate base period: The four most recent complete calendar-year quarters

Once you have your base period, follow these steps to see if you met the wage requirements during that time:

  1. Make sure the income for your highest-earning quarter is at least $1,350.
  2. Multiply the income from your highest-earning quarter by 4% to calculate your weekly benefit rate.
  3. Verify that your total income during the base period is at least 35 times the weekly benefit rate you calculated in Step 2.
  4. Add the wages for the other three quarters in your base year; the sum must be at least four times the weekly benefit rate.

How To Maintain Eligibility for Unemployment in Wisconsin

After the Wisconsin DWD approves your initial unemployment claim, you must do the following things to stay eligible:

File a Weekly Claim Certification

Between 7 and 14 days after the end of each week, you must file a claim certification. The claim certification includes a few questions about:

  • Why you're unemployed
  • Partial employment and income
  • Your job search
  • Other sources of income

Search for Work

While you're receiving unemployment, Wisconsin requires you to look for work. Every week, you must take and document at least four actions related to a job search. Some approved actions are:

  • Applying for a job
  • Submitting or posting your resume
  • Participating in Job Center of Wisconsin activities
  • Attending approved training sessions
  • Registering with temp agencies or headhunters
  • Scheduling a session with a career counselor
  • Creating a profile on a professional job-hunting or networking website

The DWD has the right to audit your job-search log at any time, so make sure to keep it for 52 weeks. You should also keep proof of each action: email confirmations, screenshots, registration badges and employer details are typically adequate.

How Do You Apply for Wisconsin Unemployment Benefits?

Wisconsin recommends that you file for unemployment as soon as you lose your job. You should make a claim the same week or within 7 days of the end of that week. Keep in mind that Wisconsin has a one-week waiting period; you won't be paid benefits the first week you're eligible.

To apply for unemployment in Wisconsin, follow these steps:

  • Gather your Social Security card, driver's license, work history dates and employer information.
  • File a claim online.
  • Decide whether you want to receive benefits via direct deposit or a Visa prepaid debit card.
  • Register with the Job Center of Wisconsin within 14 days.

How Much Do You Get From Wisconsin Unemployment?

In Wisconsin, the minimum weekly unemployment benefit is $54, and the maximum is $370. To calculate your benefit amount, the state multiplies your wages from the highest-earning quarter of the base period by 4%. 

To figure out how long you'll receive unemployment, complete two calculations:

  • Multiply your weekly benefit amount by 26
  • Take 40% of your total income in the base period

Take the lesser of these two amounts — this is the total amount you can receive in unemployment in a benefit year. If you don't claim all the funds before the benefit year ends, they don't rollover.

You aren't responsible for making these calculations. The state will evaluate your income and send you form UCB-700 or form UCB-736. These forms tell you if you qualify and how much you can expect each week.

Certain factors can reduce the amount of money you receive in unemployment each week, including:

  • Any income you brought in
  • Retirement pay
  • Child support deductions

What Happens if Unemployment Claims in Wisconsin Are Denied?

If your initial unemployment claim was denied, look at the determination letter for appeal instructions. Before the specified deadline, you can appeal the decision online or by mail to the UI Hearing Office. 

The office will respond with a hearing time and instructions about what you need to prepare. Bear in mind that the appeal is based solely on the information you present during the hearing. You're allowed to hire an attorney, but it isn't a requirement.

After the hearing, the Appeal Tribunal will review the information and make a decision. You'll usually receive the decision in writing within 2 weeks. If you disagree, you can make another appeal within 21 days to the Labor and Industry Review Commission (LIRC). The LIRC will review the existing record and make a decision or schedule another hearing. 

You should continue to file weekly eligibility claims while your appeals are pending.

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