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PA Call Center Overwhelmed by Unemployment Claims
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PA Call Center Overwhelmed by Unemployment Claims

February 01, 2013
By Jacqueline Lee
Contributing Writer

According to Pennsylvania Secretary of Labor and Industry Julia Hearthway, January is the state’s business month for unemployment claims in the state’s unemployment call centers.

Back in August 2012, the state closed an unemployment call center because of a $30-million cut in federal funding. The closure put 75 workers out of work.

Then, last November, the remaining call center received a record number of calls, leaving the remaining agents completely overwhelmed.

Current callers are reporting busy signals as well as waits that can last several hours. “This is delaying people’s claims,” said Rep. Bill Keller (D-184). “They’re going weeks without getting a check because they can’t get through to the system. We have to do something to fix this system that is broken.”

Smartphones that use automatic redialing apps have contributed greatly to the congestion. These apps call a number continuously until they no longer receive a busy signal.

Hearthway asks that residents refrain from using these apps, suggesting that citizens may get through more quickly on a landline than over a cellular connection.

Another potential problem could be efforts by organized groups to sabotage the call center. State Police are investigating the sources of calls to make sure no group is bombarding the system with false signals.

Hearthway expects the problems to improve within three to six months, and lawmakers have pledged a state funding package to help with the problem.

Until then, people who need to make unemployment claims or who have questions about their claim have some options to cut their wait times.

First, people should try to reach the contact center on less busy days. The times with the lowest call volume are Wednesday, Thursday and also Friday afternoons. Second, people can utilize the dedicated fax line if they have questions about their unemployment claims or try the department’s website.

The state has called back 117 temporary workers to relieve the backlog. In addition, Hearthway says, the state is correcting technical challenges associated with an upgraded phone system and is providing state call center agents with better training to handle customer requests.

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Edited by Braden Becker

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