People already concerned about how they'll pay for holiday gifts may be dealing with added frustration in trying to collect unemployment benefits. The state has taken its filing system offline to perform an upgrade.
The Department of Labor's online system shut down Wednesday afternoon, they said they had to do it to be able to handle more claims. However, people waiting on unemployment money feel like it's not moving fast enough.
”It's frustrating because I’ve been three weeks without pay now, unemployed for three weeks , it's frustrating and would like to get compensation,” said Kenneth Shaffer.
Shaffer had gone to the DOL in person looking for answers.
“I came here in hopes to talk to someone and to get unemployment,” said Shaffer.
Shaffer said he lost his job after the temp agency he worked for ended his contract. But, trying to collect unemployment is proving to be hard work too.
“It's been two weeks, I’ve done it multiple times and they've locked me out and I come here to talk to someone and they give me a number to call for the state,” explained Shaffer. “I tried calling multiple times and you don't get anybody.”
Officials with the Department of Labor said the upgrade is necessary in order to handle the 300 percent increase in the number of seasonal claims they expect to be filed in January.
“We're making modifications, so the system had to come down yesterday and we're going for the modifications right now as we speak,” said Daryle Dudzinski director of labor operations for the DOL.
However, the shutdown comes at a bad time, just days before Christmas, making what many said was an already slow process, even slower.
“I have bills to pay and it's rough and it's frustrating,” said Shaffer.
Dudzinski points to cuts in federal funding for the overall delays in system.
“We know our staffing levels aren't enough,” said Dudzinski. “But we're making the changes and staff are really stepping up as they always have.”
Shaffer, did eventually get through on the phone.
The Department of Labor said the upgrade is going smoothly and they expect the online system to be back up Friday. While it’s down, shut down they want people to use their Telebenefits system to file claims. However, they said to expect longer wait times with that, because it's getting a lot more traffic due to the shutdown.