Throughout the past three months, state unemployment offices across the United States have consistently and repeatedly been unable to handle the flood of calls from displaced workers seeking to file claims, to obtain benefits, or to secure information. Unfortunately, and inexplicably, state governments seem incapable of solving those recurring problems, despite the availability of U.S.-based call centers qualified to service these demands.
Within the past 48 hours, NJ Advance Media posted two stories on nj.com detailing New Jersey’s ongoing difficulties in fielding its citizens’ phone calls. On Thursday afternoon, June 18, NJ Advance Media posted a story entitled, “New unemployment call center is up and running, N.J. says, but workers say they still can’t get through.” Early that day, Governor Murphy had announced that the New Jersey “Labor Department’s new call center to handle calls from unemployment applicants” began operating the day before (Wednesday, June 17), a development “widely anticipated by the thousands of workers who need [to] speak to an agent about their unemployment claims.”
And yet, the story reported that “scores of workers emailed NJ Advance Media, reporting that they still could not get through on Wednesday and Thursday.” This despite the Labor Department claiming that the new “call center is operating ‘as anticipated,’ but ‘that does not mean that every call can be answered.’”
Then, later that same night (Thursday, June 18), NJ Advance Media posted a second story reporting that “hundreds of unemployment recipients … have not received their expanded $600 federal benefit for two weeks” and “have tried to get answers from the Department of Labor, but they have not been able to get through on the telephone, even with the launch of a new call center this week.” The Labor Department initially blamed the delay on Bank of America systems which were temporarily down for maintenance, but that explanation was questioned when others received their benefits as expected.
The story quoted one unemployment recipient who missed two weeks of benefits as complaining that the Labor Department’s unemployment website has not “given any information as to whether this is a Bank of America issue again, and you can’t get through to anyone to speak.” The recipient added that “emailing them is not helpful either because I got what amounted to a robo response saying to visit their website for commonly asked questions.”
The extent of New Jersey’s citizens desperate needs for communication and information – and the crippling problems caused by the State’s continuing inability to provide qualified call center operations to service those needs – cannot be overstated. New Jersey’s unemployment rate for May was 15.2%, and 28% of the state’s workforce (i.e., 1.24 million workers) had filed claims for unemployment benefits through June 3.
There are many companies, including BPR, which are qualified to provide call center solutions to bottlenecked communication problems such as those that have been plaguing New Jersey’s Labor Department, depriving its citizens of desperately needed information about their unemployment benefits in this time of crisis. Such solutions are a mere phone call away.
Lauren Irwin-Szostak is the President of Business Processes Redefined, LLC, a call center solutions management firm headquartered in Fairfield, New Jersey which is certified as a woman-owned business enterprise by both the New Jersey Woman-Owned Business Enterprise (NJWBE) and the Woman’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC).