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Disability Rights Wisconsin statement on Pandemic Emergency Unemployment relief for Wisconsin SSDI recipients

Disability Rights Wisconsin applauds DWD Secretary Frostman, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin
and Representatives Ron Kind, Mark Pocan, and Gwen Moore, for their work to secure
Pandemic Emergency Unemployment relief (PAU) for Wisconsin SSDI recipients out of work
due to COVID-19. PUA is the temporary federal program that provides up to 39 weeks of
unemployment benefits to individuals who are not eligible for regular unemployment insurance
during the COVID-19 public health emergency. This benefit has been available to SSDI
recipients in other states since March, but due to a misinterpretation of Wisconsin unemployment
law by the U.S. Department of Labor, Wisconsin residents were excluded until now from
receiving this critical emergency benefit.

DRW meet with Secretary Frostman and other administrators at the Department of Workforce
Development shortly after the initial announcement denying this emergency relief to SSDI
recipients to present detailed legal analysis and arguments that Wisconsin SSDI recipients
otherwise meet COVID-related eligibility, should not be disqualified from PUA benefits and to
do so would discriminate against people with disabilities by singling them out for different
treatment than other people who lost their jobs due to COVID-19. “Although it took much longer
than we had hoped for the Department of Labor to officially agree with our interpretation, we are
glad that it has finally happened and encourage Wisconsin SSDI recipients who lost their jobs
due to COVID-19 to apply to see if they meet the other requirements of the program,” said Kit
Kerschensteiner, Director of Legal and Advocacy Services at Disability Rights Wisconsin.
People who receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are encouraged to work to the
degree they can manage. These jobs provide a vital portion of their income. Many workers with
part time jobs were laid off during COVID-19. The federal misinterpretation of Wisconsin law
meant that SSDI recipients could not collect Pandemic Emergency Unemployment benefits.

“DRW is pleased that we were able to assist DWD with the legal arguments they needed to
pursue a change in the interpretation,” stated Lea Kitz, DRW’s Executive Director. “This
decision will have a positive impact for many people with disabilities in Wisconsin who have
lost their precious income during this difficult time.”

According to DWD, those who are eligible for PUA may be able to receive retroactive benefits
to the week ending February 8, 2020, or the first week an individual is out of work due to
COVID-19, whichever is later. For further information on how to apply, visit


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