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Governor replaces DWD Secretary Frostman over unemployment delays

The governor announced Friday he asked for and received Frostman’s resignation
Caleb Frostman in an undated WBAY photo
Caleb Frostman in an undated WBAY photo(WBAY)
Published: Sep. 18, 2020 at 3:25 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 18, 2020 at 3:42 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WBAY) - Gov. Tony Evers is replacing Workforce Development Secretary Caleb Frostman.

Evers says he asked for Frostman’s resignation after the state has struggled for months to distribute unemployment benefits. Frostman tendered his resignation, and Evers is replacing him immediately with Amy Pechacek, Deputy Secretary of the Dept. of Corrections, until a new secretary is appointed.

“People across our state are struggling to make ends meet, and it is unacceptable that Wisconsinites continue to wait for the support they need during these challenging times," Gov. Evers wrote in a statement Friday announcing Frostman’s departure. “We have continued to add additional state resources to support the DWD, but it is clear that we must have change if we are going to address these problems to get folks their benefits faster."

The governor goes on to say the Department of Workforce Development received an unprecedented number of unemployment claims during the pandemic, even more than the Great Recession. The DWD has more than 1,500 employees working on unemployment insurance cases compared to 600 before the pandemic.

. The governor has been taking intense criticism for months over the DWD’s inability to process the backlog of claims that began building after the coronavirus pandemic shut down the state and national economy. According to department data, 713,508 weekly claims from nearly 100,000 people were still in process as of Saturday.

“It is clear that our unemployment system has faced historic levels of claims these past few months, hindered in part by antiquated technology we inherited, and processes designed by Republicans to make it harder for folks to get these benefits," the governor wrote.

“I am confident Deputy Secretary Pechacek has the leadership and skill sets we need to begin to identify solutions to these issues and to get to work making sure folks across our state can get the resources they need. I appreciate Secretary Frostman’s service to our state and wish him well in his future endeavors.”

Wisconsin’s DOC website says Pechacek has a masters in public policy and public administration, and was an advisor in local and large-scale government administration for the past decade, specializing in crisis management.

Evers did not say when he would nominate a new DWD secretary.

Copyright 2020 WBAY. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.