NC senator says help is on the way for state’s overwhelmed unemployment system

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Months after the pandemic hit, frustrations with the North Carolina unemployment system continue to grow.

The state’s unemployment system has never seen anything like this and is overwhelmed with more than one million people seeking relief.

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“This was a sleepy outfit used to doing 3,000 claims a week. Now they’re talking about 100,000 claims a week,” said Sen. Wiley Nickel (D-Wake).

That’s a 3,792-percent increase in unemployment claims since the pandemic began, according to a new study by WalletHub.

That gives North Carolina the ninth-largest increase in unemployment in the country, according to the personal finance website.

And people are frustrated.

Consumer investigator Steve Sbraccia has received numerous emails from viewers who have been waiting weeks for benefits, and their complaints are all similar.

They say they can’t get through by phone, or if they get through the voice mailbox is full. 

Others complain that attempts to contact the Department of Employment Security by email have also gone unanswered.

“The response from DES is absolutely unacceptable,” said Nickel.

As a member of the legislative oversight committee on unemployment insurance, Nickel said he’s had several conference calls with DES officials about the problems.

“We are just as mad as anyone about the lack of response that our constituents get when they try to access the system,’’ he said.

Nickel said he’s been assured that there are more computer tech and call takers being trained at DES.

He also said lawmakers recently gave the department $70 million make improvements to technical systems and personnel, but even so, the backlogs remain.

The senator said although it shouldn’t have to work this way, those who are in desperate need to call their respective lawmakers to get them to intercede for them.

He said his office has been able to get responses for constituents who have contacted him.

DES was asked for an interview about the situation but did not reply to that request.

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