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June 22, 2020

DOL expanding new contact center for jobless residents

Photo | CT Mirror DOL Deputy Commissioner Daryle Dudzinski, left, and Commissioner Kurt Westby.

Connecticut’s labor department is adding reinforcements to a newly developed contact center aimed at improving communications for hundreds of thousands of workers left jobless during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state Department of Labor (DOL) late Friday said its new consumer contact center, which is slated to debut in mid-July, will add 60 additional customer service representatives using email, phone and text to assist residents filing for unemployment.

The additional staff will be added to the 100 or so agency workers already supporting communications for various state and federal programs backed by $4 million in federal funding.

DOL Commissioner Kurt Westby said the expanded contact center is crucial as more than half of unemployment applications contain claimant errors.

“The consumer contact center will help us more quickly get benefits out to people while still protecting the system from fraud and criminal activity,” Westby said. “Starting mid-July, we will have more customer service representatives available to help people make corrections and handle the applications that are in verification for other reasons.”

The agency is ramping up unemployment communications as it’s received 635,772 jobless claims in roughly three months. It’s provided $900 million in state unemployment benefits after processing 617,296 claims since mid-March, which is a volume typically seen over a period of several years. 

Since March 13, DOL says it’s also disbursed $75 million in pandemic unemployment assistance and $38 million in pandemic emergency unemployment compensation for individuals who have exhausted regular unemployment insurance benefits. 

It also distributed $1.76 billion in federal pandemic unemployment compensation that provides a $600-a-week unemployment benefit expiring July 25.

[Read more: Lamont says extending $600-a-week federal jobless benefit may ‘discourage work’]
DOL estimated that the unemployment processing time is now down to one or two weeks from about six weeks during the peak of the health crisis.
Meanwhile, labor officials last week said Connecticut is beginning to recover from the historic job losses caused by the COVID-19 outbreak as the state recovered 25,800 net jobs in May.
But DOL also reiterated that May unemployment numbers remain unreliable because there were errors in the federal government’s household survey that’s used to calculate unemployment rates.

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