Tennessee takes steps to improve unemployment system - WKRN News 2

Tennessee takes steps to improve unemployment system

Posted: Updated: Jul 09, 2014 09:30 PM

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development has rolled out more improvements to the state’s unemployment system.

For months, News 2 has been reporting on the long wait for unemployment benefits.

Frustrated job seekers have been contacting the station describing problems getting through to the claims center.

State officials have said the problem is too many calls coming in and not enough people to answer all of them.

“We'd love to throw 100 more people at the unemployment system but we just don't have the money to do that," said department spokesperson Jeff Hentschel. The positions are federally funded.

Instead, the state is relying on improved technology to make filing easier and reduce call volume.

Earlier this year a new Telephone Certification System was implemented.

It allows claimants to self-correct their answers to the weekly certifications they do online and reset their PIN.

Since the implementation, the state says the call volume has dropped significantly.

On July 7, the department added more upgrades including a new online status tracker.

Claimants can go online, enter their name and social security number and a tool shows them where their claim is in the process.

Another improvement is a new chat system.

“We can tell them the wait time. It may be three days but at least they have a live body that they can talk to who is giving them information," said state employee Bernadette Ellsworth.

The department is currently training ten new employees who will be dedicated to the live chat system.

Hentschel told News 2 claimants can also submit questions through the Department of Labor’s Web site and expect to receive a response in three to five days.

The goal is to make sure people are paid within 21 days.

The department admits the system is not perfect but they are working on it daily.

It is trying to identify other issues that are causing a backlog in the system.

“It's still very difficult to get through to us on the phone line and I wouldn't recommend that channel of communication," said Hentschel.

The state says the best way to get through to the department is through the email system.

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