People in NC struggling to get unemployment benefits despite changes

Local News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – While leaders of the state’s Division of Employment Security say they’ve made several changes to deal with the unprecedented number of people filing for unemployment benefits,  some people are continuing to encounter issues getting their claims processed.

As of Tuesday morning, DES says 450,209 initial claims for unemployment had been submitted since March 16. The office is typically staffed to handle about 3,000 claims per week.

Of those claims, DES Assistant Secretary Lockhart Taylor says about 110,000 people have received payments, totaling about $28.6 million.

Raul Franco has been trying to get his claim submitted since being furloughed from his job as an account specialist in Raleigh.

As part of the application process, he said he needed an email to activate his account, which he didn’t receive.

“And, I’ve spent all day on the phone for several days just being hung up on through the system, the system hanging up on you,” he said.

Franco, a Marine veteran who also speaks Spanish, said it wasn’t until he tried using the Spanish-language prompts that he was given the option to leave his number and have someone call him back instead of waiting on hold.

Once he got connected with a person, he was finally able to get the email he needed so he could move forward with filing his claim.

“I’m sure that there are going to be a lot of other road bumps ahead of me, trying to complete all of this,” said Franco.

During a meeting with state legislators Tuesday, Assistant Secretary Taylor outlined several steps the agency has taken to try to improve people’s ability to file their claims. He said DES has contracted with a 200-person call center, adding computer servers, hiring 50 additional staff members and adding staff from the Division of Workforce Solutions Career Centers. He said more than 850 people are processing claims.

“It’s volume, volume, volume,” Taylor said, adding that the additional steps are meant to “serve as a pressure valve to relieve some of the issues, a lot of the issues that we’ve had.”

Raju Gadiraju, who works in information technology for the agency, acknowledged the challenges they’ve had in adapting to the dramatic increase in unemployment filings.

“The demands on the system have been unrealistic, unplanned for,” he said.

Taylor said once people file a claim they should expect payment with 14 days.

Jenni Propst, who filed for unemployment March 15, said her claim is still listed as processing. She hasn’t received any money.

“I check my bank account every day. I try and log into the website. Usually I’m unsuccessful,” she said.

Franco said hearing about the changes DES is making has done little relieve his frustration.

“No, it’s not enough. It’s really not enough, hearing the fact that they’re hiring more people because we’re doing everything that we’re told to do by our elected officials and by everybody else and do the right thing and stay at home,” Franco said.

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