NEWBURYPORT — With the state’s unemployment rate rising to 7.2 percent in recent weeks, the number of Bay Staters seeking desperately needed benefits is ever growing. More than two months after the state acknowledged it was having problems with its new unemployment benefits computer system, UI Online, affected residents, including many in the Greater Newburyport area, are still struggling to receive benefits.
The ongoing computer problems have drawn the attention of local state Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives, D-Newburyport, who earlier this week complained to Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Joanne F. Goldstein.
In a letter dated Sept. 17, O’Connor Ives wrote that the issue required immediate attention and the state needed to hold the company it hired, Deloitte Consulting, financially responsible for what she called serious technical failings.
“Taxpayer dollars should not be expended to pay for mistakes with their product. There should be an immediate stop-gap remedy so that residents can obtain their anticipated benefits during this time when Deloitte Consulting is attempting to correct their systems,” said O’Connor Ives in a separate statement.
Many claimants have expressed frustration, saying they could not file claims electronically through the state and that it was nearly impossible to reach an agent on the phone to resolve issues.
According to O’Connor Ives, her office has recently received about a dozen calls from Greater Newburyport residents who initially tried, but were unable to access the state’s unemployment system. The results have been disastrous. One constituent reported she has not received any unemployment compensation since the end of June.
“This added economic stress has forced one of my constituents to pay his mortgage with a credit card, while another woman faced the possibility of withdrawing her child from school due to an inability to pay for the services,” the senator wrote to Goldstein.