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Wisconsin Unemployment Information – Benefits, Eligibility etc.

Last Verified: August 2017

The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) is instituting a major change in how first-time applicants may file for unemployment benefits. On May 24, 2017, the state will no longer allow you to file your initial claim for benefits over the telephone. You will still be able to use the automated telephone system for other things. Yet, now you have to file your first claim over the Internet.

According to the Journal-Sentinel article, 81% of applicants already use the Internet to file their first claim. For the rest who don’t, learning how to file a claim and maintain eligibility becomes increasingly important now.


Wisconsin aims to help people that are currently out of work, but there are certain requirements in order to receive unemployment insurance. To qualify for benefits, you must have earned wages during the past year from an employer covered by the state’s unemployment insurance law. If you qualify based on your earnings, you must meet additional eligibility requirements, including:

  • You lost your job through no fault of your own
  • You are legally authorized to work in the US
  • You are able and available to work

Within two weeks of filing your initial claim for benefits, you must register with Wisconsin Job Services. Making a good faith effort to find work is essential to your continuing to receive benefits if the state approves your claim.

Eligibility Requirements Explained

Unemployed Through No Fault of Your Own

You cannot be the cause of your separation from work to be eligible for benefits. If you quit without good cause or you were fired for violating some rule, you will be ineligible. Workers laid off or whose place of business closed are usually eligible. You may also be eligible if your employer reduced your wages significantly.

Able and Available

You must be physically and mentally able to work when you file a claim. You must also be available to accept an offer of suitable employment. “Suitable employment” is work you were trained to do at a salary similar to what you’re used to.

If you are incarcerated or you are in school and can’t accept work, the state may deny benefits.

Legally Authorized

You must be a US citizen to receive benefits. You may be eligible as a non-citizen if you can show proof you are authorized to work in the US (an alien registration card). Certain H1-B visa holders may be eligible if they are laid off with a specific return date.

Earnings Requirements

The DWD will look at your earnings over a 12-month period prior to your filing a claim to determine whether you qualify for benefits. This period is called the “base period” and includes the first four of the last five quarters prior to your filing a claim.

unemployment base period
This chart shows the base period.

The state will use the wages during the base period when you earned the most money, your “high quarter wages,” and the amount you made outside of the high quarter to determine whether you qualify.

Calculating Your Benefit Amount

The state also uses base period wages to calculate how much you’ll receive, your “weekly benefit amount (WBA).” Your WBA will be 4% of your total high quarter. As mentioned earlier, the minimum payment amount is $54. So in order to receive unemployment benefits you must have earned at least $1,350 in four consecutive months of the previous 5 months. The maximum weekly allotment is $370 which would require a high earning quarter of $9,250. Luckily, you do not have to do the math and can use this benefits rate chart to find out how much you can receive weekly based on your quarter earnings.

You may receive benefits for up to 26 weeks. Your total benefit amount that you can receive during the year (from the date you file) is your WBA x 26.

Extended Benefits

During times of high unemployment, the state or federal government may authorize addition weeks of benefit payments. No such extensions are currently available.

How to Apply

Once you’ve determined whether or not you qualify for unemployment benefits, the next step will be to apply. The information you will need to apply consists of your social security number, your driver’s license number, and a 4 digit pin number (you will pick your pin).You can either apply online or call to apply.

You must apply for benefits online at the benefit services portal. When applying online, make sure you hit the submit button and print out your confirmation page. If you do not see a confirmation then your application has not been submitted successfully.

After Applying

Once you have completed your application, you will receive a letter in the mail letting you know whether or not you have been approved. If you did not qualify, the letter will explain why you were not approved. If you were approved, the letter will give you the information regarding your weekly payments, and certification schedule. You must complete a weekly claim certification in order to start receiving payments. If you fail to complete your certification you will not receive any benefits.

Weekly Certification and Receiving Payments

As we mentioned, it is crucial that you do your weekly claim certification in order to receive your payments. Certifying weekly is also called filing a continuing claim. That is what the state uses to make sure you maintain eligibility. When you request a payment either by phone or using the online system, you will receive several questions meant to find out if you’re eligible. The DWD will want to know whether:

  • You are looking for work
  • You are able and available to work
  • You started or quit a new job
  • You earned any reportable wages or income
  • You refused any offer of employment

Answer the questions truthfully. Report any income you earned during the benefit week.

Part-Time Work and Unemployment Benefits

You may file a claim if your employer reduced your hours from full to part-time. You may even work part-time while receiving benefits. However, the DWD will deduct a portion of your benefit payments based on how much you earn.

The department uses a “partial wage formula” to determine how much your benefits will be during a week you earned wages. Subtract $30 from your gross pay, then multiply that number times .67. Subtract that result from your WBA.

Example: WBR=$200 Gross Income=$250

  1. $250.00 (Gross Income) minus $30 = $220.00
  2. $220.00 multiplied by .67 = $147.40
  3. $200.00 (WBR) minus $147.40 = $52.60
  4. Round $52.60 down to $52.00

$52.00 is the amount of benefits payable for the week.

If you end up with a figure less than $5, don’t expect any payment that week. If you work full-time or earn more than your WBA, you won’t get a benefit payment.

Searching For Work

One of the stipulations for receiving unemployment benefits is that you must be actively looking for work. You are required to contact a minimum of four employers every week that you are on unemployment. The requirement to look for employment may be waived if you are working part time or in cases where you are expected to return back to work for you previous employment soon. Failure to search for work can result in termination of Wisconsin unemployment benefits.

Luckily, the Wisconsin unemployment department will aid you in your search for work. You may go online to to register and search for jobs. You may also contact a local job center to look for work as well. To find the closest job center near you, visit or call 1-888-258-9966.


How to Stop Receiving Payments

In the event that you start working full time, or simply wish to discontinue your Wisconsin unemployment benefits, you can just stop filing your claim certifications and you will no longer receive payments. No further action is required. If for some reason you continue to receive checks, do not cash or deposit them. Contact a claims specialist and they will tell you the necessary steps to take.


If you disagree with a ruling you may appeal the decision in writing or online. To appeal online, go to If you wish to send a written appeal, you can fax, mail, or hand deliver it to hearing office or unemployment office. In your appeals letter you must include:

  • Your name and social security number
  • Name, address, and phone number of your previous employer
  • A copy of the original determination letter or the 9 digit number on the upper left hand corner of it.
  • Dates that you or any witnesses will be unavailable for an appeals hearing

Learn more about the appeals process by reading our pages on appeals in Wisconsin.


Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development

Online Application

Weekly Claim Certification

Possible Eligibility Issues

Wisconsin Work Net

Wisconsin Unemployment Benefits

Search for employment


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