Since March 20, many Connecticut residents have needed to reapply for unemployment benefits after initial benefits expired.
According to the DOL filers receive notification of their benefit year end. Claimants are reminded to watch for those notices and not disregard them. The DOL says it can’t pay benefits without a claim, and the law requires a new claim every 52 weeks. The benefit year end is 52 weeks from when people first filed.
The Department of Labor (DOL) says it was expecting 150,000 people to reapply for unemployment benefits in March. The process began three weeks ago, and some people are growing impatient.
On the Facebook page CT Unemployed Benefits Info there are 16,900 followers. The independent group is dedicated to helping Connecticut’s unemployed, many of whom needed to reapply for benefits last month.
“People are really scared and really upset,” said Lynne Kiss, one of the group’s moderators.
Kiss says, based on comments posted to the page, the DOL is feeling the surge.
“I think the computer system itself is completely overwhelmed,” said Kiss.
Over the past year, the DOL has needed to ramp up its decades old system to meet the unprecedented demand.
“We’ve actually had 1.4 million applications coming into the system since last March,” said Deputy Labor Commissioner Dante Bartolomeo.
Bartolomeo explained that 1.4 million represents what the DOL would typically see in about 10 years.
The DOL says the weekly filer count peaked last May with about 400,000 per week. It is now down to about 200,000. This is still, about five times the volume it was pre-pandemic.
Among those reapplying is Wallingford’s Jim Alling.
“I was collecting unemployment from January through March 20 and then, abruptly it stopped,” he said.
Alling says after several phone calls he was able to schedule on the unemployment website, his case was approved. Although, he has not received his first payment which he says he was told would be deposited on April 1.
“April 1 came and went and I did not receive a benefit,” he said.
While frustrations like Alling’s are being felt around the state, Lynne Kiss and others are others are advising people to be persistent and patient.
“(The DOL) is doing the best they can but there’s no way 100 or so people can answer 20,000 phone calls,” said Kiss.
The DOL says the claims processing right now for most claims is under seven days. However, there are exceptions. Examples are if an employer contests a claim or if there are problems verifying wages with a company, that can prolong the process.
The DOL also strongly encourages people to use the contact center.
“It’s the only way to get specific info on their claim. Each claim is individual based on their salary history, and work history,” said spokesperson Juliet Manalan.
For those wishing to speak directly to a representative, an appointment can be scheduled directly on the DOL unemployment website where someone will call back. As of Wednesday evening, the first appointment available is April 19.