COLUMBUS, Ohio (FOX19) - The agency that handles unemployment claims continues to be overwhelmed by the number of claims fueled by the collapse of Ohio’s workforce due to the coronavirus.
The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services Director, Kimberly Hall, announced Monday a new virtual call center to handle the half of million calls the agency is receiving is up and running. The new call center adds up to 1600 agents to answer calls during the day.
The problem with the call center is only 268 of the agents are capable of answering ‘complex’ questions with claims. The majority of the new agents can only answer simple questions and ask applicants to call back. That has led to applicants spending hours calling the system back hoping to connect with one of the qualified agents - creating frustration and little answers for the 20% of the nearly million claims that do not have answers with a claim.
ODJFS is considering a call-back option in the future but does not have plans for that in the immediate future.
Hall says the agency has invested more than $25 million in upgrades and contracts with vendors like Amazon Web Services since the beginning of March to improve the process.
Ohio’s unemployment processing system has not been updated in 16 years and the recent economic slowdown has exposed major problems.
Some of the upgrades have been to added automation options for applicants to answer more complex questions. Hall said Monday to expect even more additional automated options in the coming weeks.
There have been 974,000 unemployment claims in six weeks. The State of Ohio has paid $1.42 billion toward those claims during that time.