Indiana Department of Workforce Development Commissioner Fred Payne says his department is facing an “unprecedented volume” of claims as tens of thousands of Hoosiers lose their jobs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. That, as the federal government is providing details to the DWD on how to handle the additional federal unemployment programs.
Last week, more than 120,000 Hoosiers filed for unemployment insurance. Two weeks prior, DWD saw 2,300 claims.
During Monday’s daily pandemic briefing with Governor Eric Holcomb, Payne acknowledged a slow down of the unemployment operating system Sunday, a day when many people are filing weekly claims.
“This prevented some people from getting into the system altogether. And for others, it created some call delays. We were able to address those systems and I.T. issues,” said Payne.
Payne said DWD hired 77 news workers last week to handle claims with some of those new employees receiving training and on-boarding instruction on Monday.
He also said the department has contracted with a third-party company to immediately bring another 100 workers to assist with the call center.
“We’re struggling more with that, than a few weeks ago,” said DWD Chief of Staff Josh Richardson this weekend on Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick. “We were staffed to be efficient for record low claims levels. And now we’re really on the other side of that.”
Richardson said under normal circumstances it takes approximately 21 days from the time when a person files unemployment until the first check arrives. But he said it may take a few days longer during this high-volume time.
“It’s a system that’s set up to serve people but much of it has been automated. We’ve learned a lot of lessons. And we’re very confident that a high percentage of people will receive compensation in 21 days or less,” said Richardson.
In addition to systems already in place, Commissioner Payne said Monday the department is also dealing with new provisions from the U.S. Department of Labor which will provide an additional $600 per claimant in addition to what they will receive from the state.
Payne said the department received guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor over the weekend as to how the additional unemployment insurance benefits under the CARES Act will be distributed.
“We’ve been working to quickly revise our systems so that these additional benefits may be sent electronically, in the same manner as claimants current unemployment benefits.”
Payne said the provision is effective as of March 29, so benefits will be paid retroactively and will continue through July 31.
“This moment in time is unique. It’s presenting us with facts and circumstances that are changing rapidly,” said Payne. “We’re putting new systems in place in a number of days and weeks when in normal times, it will take months or even years to put these processes into place.”
During the briefing, Payne detailed the federal programs which will provide additional unemployment benefits to Hoosiers.
Richardson says the unemployment fund will withstand the draw down.