, Newburyport, MA

September 27, 2013

State working to fix problems with unemployment claims

Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the Editor:

Recently, Senator Kathleen O’Connor Ives approached the Newburyport Daily News and the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development to share her concerns over the state’s new unemployment insurance (UI) system (O’Connor Ives: Benefit troubles need ‘immediate attention’, Sept. 19). I thank the senator for sharing her concerns and speaking on behalf of her constituents.

Claimants deserve a seamless process for requesting benefits so they can support themselves and their families while actively looking for work. UI laws require review of every claim, and complicated claims may need further review; nevertheless, we are listening to claimants and their advocates to make sure we do everything possible to help them navigate the system and when eligible, obtain benefits.

The Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) launched UI Online on July 1, and this integrated and multifaceted computer system is working. The overwhelming majority of claimants are certifying for their weekly benefits via a short, no wait telephone call or over the Internet. Since we launched, an average of 115,000 claimants interface with the system on a weekly basis and the Commonwealth has paid well over $400 million in benefits. Over time, UI Online will create greater efficiencies for employers and job seekers, streamline the claims process, and strengthen the state’s ability to prevent, detect and rectify UI fraud.

As is to be expected with any program launch of this size, since the introduction of UI Online we have identified improvements that must be made in order for us to adequately serve every claimant. We are holding the vendor for this project - Deloitte - accountable for these necessary improvements.

We fully recognize that system success is irrelevant to the claimant who is without benefits or cannot reach a claims representative. We are enhancing customer service options by adding staff, providing additional staff training at call centers and One Stop Career Centers, set up a direct line for field staff to communicate with advanced UI specialists, and instituted a protocol to address delayed unpaid claims. As a result, the weekly call volume and wait times have decreased since its peak in July, returning close to the pre-launch average and we’re striving to make this even better.

One claimant experiencing a problem is one too many. I want to assure the public, and particularly those in the UI system, that we hear you. We are committed to insuring every eligible claimant gets paid. We will not be satisfied until we achieve that goal.

Joanne F. Goldstein

Secretary of the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development