State Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, D-New Haven, is frustrated with the lack of progress the state is making in getting the state’s unemployment insurance claims system working for the unemployed.
Over the past few months filing a claim either online or by telephone has become increasingly difficult for the state’s unemployed.
Having contacted the Department of Labor at the end of November, Holder-Winfield, said Thursday that he was told they were working on the problem, but since that time the situation has only gotten worse.
“They made it sound like they were going to be able to fix it last month,” Holder-Winfield said.
And, he said he doesn’t care whose problem it is he just wants to see it fixed.
“For some of these people it’s just an annoyance, but for others it’s a lifeline,” Holder-Winfield said.
Nancy Steffens, spokeswoman for the Department of Labor, said Thursday that the agency has made improvements to the Web-based system over the past six months and hope to have those improvements completed by Spring 2010.
“I appreciate the response and acknowledge and believe that the issue is being worked on but a fix by spring time is inadequate,” Holder-Winfield wrote Wednesday in this letter to Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell.
Steffens said claims are up 40 percent from last year and the last week of the year is the most difficult week even in good times. She said the department typically issues 145,000 checks a week, but will issue 155,000 this week totaling $50 million.
In order to speed up the process, Steffens said the call centers are open from 7:45 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Her advice for those trying to file a claim on the Internet is to go on as early as possible and those calling in to file a claim should be dialing like “they’re calling for concert tickets.” She urged those filing a claim by phone to just keep dialing and don’t stop. She said that advice has worked well for a number of callers.
As for the Internet claims, Steffens said web filing is up 30 percent from last year. She said since the computer system that pays out the claims is the same one that processes them, upgrades to the system have to be made incrementally.
But that answer didn’t seem to satisfy Holder-Winfield. He asked what the state has done to offer its Information Technology support to the unemployment claims computer system. Steffens said the federal government is in charge of the system and has begun to give the state funds to upgrade the server equipment.
“Have we asked the state if they can help out,” Holder-Winfield wondered.
“It was the state’s job to be prepared and we were not,” Holder-Winfield said.
Rell’s office said it has received Holder-Winfield’s letter, but felt the Department of Labor’s statements were sufficient.
Later in the day Thursday Holder-Winfield started a Facebook group to urge Rell to address the matter.