ctnewsjunkie file photo
Labor Commissioner Kurt Westby (ctnewsjunkie file photo)

HARTFORD, CT — Gov. Ned Lamont and Labor Commissioner Kurt Westby believe they’ve figured out a way to speed up the processing of the “tsunami” of unemployment claims that may allow them to process 60,000 claims Wednesday night.

Since March 13, Connecticut residents have filed more than 350,000 unemployment claims with the state, which is around the same amount Connecticut typically receives over two full years. The good news is that approximately 174,000 of those applications had been manually processed before a software improvement made Tuesday.   

“We processed well more than half,” Westby said.” So we hope relatively quickly, by the end of next week, we will have reduced the wait period.”

The backlog has been up to six weeks, but Westby believes they will begin to make progress on the claims this week. The department figured out a workaround to the manual processing so it can bypass the manual process for a lot of the claims. Westby said they tested the new system over the weekend and expect to try to process 60,000 claims tonight.

“I think that’s going to put a very big dent in the group of claims we haven’t addressed yet,” Westby added.

The state has a 40-year old COBOL computer system, which is “simply not designed to accept this many claims.”

He said he knows that anyone who is out of work is in a crisis and he hopes the five- to six-week wait time will diminish to one week with the new automated processing system.

“I really believe the automated fixes we put in recently are going to help a lot,” Westby said. 

Anyone who has applied for unemployment benefits has been urged to monitor their email for a notification from the Department of Labor directing them to take next steps in order to receive their benefits. Deputy Labor Commissioner Daryle Dudzinski said everyone will receive an email with the next steps if they’ve filed their claim correctly.

Dudzinski estimated that 95% of the claimants are following the email instructions appropriately.

He said due to the backlog, they’ve designed a way to file the weeks of unemployment for a person with one claim instead of requiring the person to file weekly claims with the department. If a person continues to be unemployed after a certain amount of time, then eventually the DOL will take them out of the “temporary shutdown program” and require them to file their own weekly claims. 

The fastest way to get claims paid is to choose direct deposit and the new automated temporary shutdown system.

Connecticut COVID-19 Briefing – 4 p.m. – Wednesday, April 15

Today’s COVID-19 briefing is scheduled for 4 p.m. and will include CT Department of Labor Commissioner Kurt Westby and Deputy Commissioner Daryle Dudzinski.

We have sent some of your questions about unemployment filing problems in advance – including whether the fully automated process they recommended last week is working or has it also been overwhelmed by applications. We got an answer to that today – the automated system can process 20,000 applications per day, which *should* help the DOL get caught up.

Also, in the comments below we are posting some informational resources that might help solve some problems for you.

Posted by CTNewsJunkie on Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Westby said they’ve coded the changes and expect the $600 additional weekly benefit to be added by the end of next week.

This is also the first-time self-employed individuals have been allowed to apply for unemployment. Westby said they expect to begin accepting applications from those individuals by April 30.

He said they are working with Mississippi, Rhode Island and Maine on coming up with a plan for the self-employed.

Lamont also said he planned to issue an executive order about where masks should be worn by ordinary citizens.

“We’re going to be very clear in our executive order what that involves,” Lamont said at his 4 p.m. briefing.

Lamont was unclear about where specifically the masks should be worn or how the order would be enforced.

“When you’re walking down the street use your judgment. And if you get into a crowd wear a mask. If you’re in a store wear a mask. That’s the rule,” Lamont said.