Unemployment Insurance Call Center adjusts hours
December 9, 2009
The Department of Labor and Training plans to close its Unemployment Insurance Call Center to incoming calls this Friday, Dec. 11, in order to process the large volume of online claims filed in recent weeks. The current claims backlog dates to the end of November, and corresponds with the influx of returning unemployment insurance claimants under the latest federal unemployment insurance extension.
"Rhode Island was one of the first states in the nation to implement this latest unemployment insurance extension, thereby assisting thousands of Rhode Islanders who had exhausted or were on the brink of exhausting their benefits," said Sandra M. Powell, director of the Department of Labor and Training. "However, the process of implementing this important program has been time intensive and has resulted in a backlog of approximately 3,000 unemployment insurance claims filed online."
"It is in the best interest of all our customers that we take actions now to reduce this backlog as quickly as possible," Powell added. "To accomplish this, we need to devote more time to online claims processing." While the Call Center will be closed to incoming calls on Friday, its staff will focus on processing claims filed online, as well as answering customer queries made by email.
In addition to Dec. 11, the department plans to close the Call Center to incoming calls next week on Wednesday morning, Dec. 16 and all day Thursday, Dec. 17. The department then plans to close the Call Center to incoming calls every Thursday moving forward, for as long as the volume of online claims warrants.
However, the department will open the Call Center queues a half hour earlier at 7:30 a.m. on the days it is operational, and will extend its afternoon hours by a half hour (5:30 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays and 3:30 p.m. on Fridays) to help accommodate customer demand.
Hours for TeleServe, the automated weekly telephone payment system, will not be affected by these changes in Call Center hours.
Currently, the department has 83 benefit claims specialists and employment & training interviewers on staff to handle claims, and it recently approved the hiring of nine more personnel in the Call Center. The department has also offered unemployment insurance staff morning and evening overtime on both weekdays and weekends to accommodate the high volume of claims.
In the past year, the department has implemented several technological changes to speed claims processing, including the automated processing for non-complex claims filed online and a brand new online application for weekly payment certification. Also, the department sought and recently received a federal grant to finance new equipment that will grow the telecommunications capacity in the call center.