The lack of clarity from the N.C. Division of Employment Security on the application process for the federal unemployment program it has been tasked to administer leaves thousands of North Carolinians in the dark. Instead of coming up with concrete timelines and solutions, unemployed North Carolinians are being left hanging for weeks. Now they have to worry about whether they’ll be able to pay their bills.
The DES has provided little guidance to individuals seeking federal unemployment benefits, including whether those applicants who were denied state benefits but now qualify for federal benefits would have to reapply and when payouts would begin.
The newly eligible individuals include those who are self-employed, independent contractors and those who have exhausted their state unemployment benefits.
The Carolina Journal released a report yesterday showing that the DES is the worst in the nation at making timely payments to applicants, according to data from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration. During the first quarter of the year, the state paid out just 67.2% of first payments in a timely fashion, compared to the national average of 86.5%.
Sen. Jim Perry (R-Lenoir) said, “These people applied for benefits weeks ago after spending hours working around a crashed website and clogged phone lines. Now, we’re told it could take another a couple of weeks for them to apply for a second time after being initially denied. This is a textbook case of government inefficiency. These citizens don’t have time to wait for benefits, they need them now.”
Sen. Perry recently conducted an informal survey of his constituents who applied for unemployment benefits. Ninety percent reported major problems with the experience.
He has suggested the Cooper Administration consider flex-training state employees from other departments to help handle the increased volume, contract with an outside firm to work on website issues around the clock, and operate call centers for 16 hours a day, seven days a week until the backlog in applications has been resolved.