Call wait times drop, thousands of unemployment claims from March still not processed

Ohio JFS reports average phone call wait time down to 24 minutes
Published: Feb. 24, 2021 at 5:18 PM EST|Updated: Jun. 2, 2021 at 11:29 AM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ohio (FOX19) - Encouraging news for those trying to reach the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services.

Director Kimberly Hall told FOX19 Investigates that the average time people are waiting on the phone to reach a call center worker is 24 minutes. On May 28th, it was 48 minutes.

“We have made tremendous gains since the beginning of March,” Hall said. “The experience is improving in a myriad of ways. Day after day we are deploying fixes and approaches every day. It is still taking time. That is an example of what the sheer scope of this means."

Of the 1.2 million claims filed since March 15, the agency told FOX19 Investigates that it has paid out $3.8 billion in benefits to 683,000 claimants. The agency still has six percent left to process which represents about 70,000 claims. Of those claims, 7,000 were filed in April. 2,400 were filed back in March. Hall addressed the reasons why.

“Interstate claims is a key one,” Hall said. “Additional challenges with employer identification. Backdating challenges. And identity verification challenges."

The government requires unemployment agencies to process claims within 21 days. On May 28th, FOX19 Investigates revealed the state was doing that only 42% of the time. The agency says that number now stands at 70 percent.

Some of those who had claims that were denied are appealing those decisions. Director Hall said an uptick in those calls has begun and says the agency has a staffing plan to address it.

Hall also reiterated that some claimants who the agency denied are eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Insurance, the federal unemployment program the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services department is in charge of administering. ODJFS has paid out $1.4 billion in federal dollars to more than 196,000 claimants for that program.

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