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Agency cuts call wait time for jobless residents

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The state Workforce Solutions Department has reversed a steady climb in wait times for its unemployment insurance telephone call center despite a sharp increase in calls to the department’s toll-free number.

Still, the department has work to do to reduce wait times to the levels of 2012.

In the first three months of the year, the average time to complete a transaction with the call center was 37 minutes, according to a performance report card for Workforce Solutions issued Friday by the Legislative Finance Committee.

That is down from 68 minutes in the previous three months and 44 minutes in the quarter before that. The rate was 36 minutes for the 2013 state budget year, up from 15 minutes for the previous budget year.

There were about 247,000 calls to the number over the first quarter, compared to about 196,000 in the previous three months, according to statistics provided by the department.

The number of calls to the call center was driven up in early 2013 by people having trouble navigating a new $48 million online computer system for the jobless to make claims and for businesses to pay unemployment insurance taxes.

Changes in extended federal jobless benefits and a partial federal government shutdown also helped to boost call center wait times since early 2013, the department has said.

The new report card for Workforce Solutions also shows continued improvement in processing jobless claims.

In the first three months of the year, the department issued a determination within 21 days for 90 percent of eligible claims – up from 76 percent in the previous three months and 55 percent in the quarter prior to that.

Determinations had been slowed by a backlog of claims created by implementation of the new computer system, according to Workforce Solutions. The department also said it had discovered that some work on determinations wasn’t being done based upon the age of claims.

Other good news from the Workforce Solutions report card: 89 percent of all first payments of jobless benefits were made within 14 days after the waiting week required before collecting benefits. That was up from 82 percent in the previous three months and 71 percent in the quarter prior to that.

Workforce Solutions Secretary Celina Bussey said in a prepared statement:

“The department has made tremendous strides when it comes to performance and efficiency measures. … We will continue to evaluate all opportunities and avenues in order to better serve our customers.”

Retooling

The Legislative Finance Committee report card for the Department of Information Technology says the department has completed the first hardware upgrade for the computer system known as SHARE.

SHARE stands for Statewide Human Resources, Accounting and Management Reporting System. The system has been politically controversial and troubled since its implementation in 2006, and the cost has climbed to about $50 million.

Previous attempts to move the system to $2.5 million in new hardware had been stymied by technical problems.

With the upgrade in hardware completed, the Department of Information Technology is working on a plan to update SHARE’s software. The system is running on its original version of PeopleSoft software.

UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Thom Cole at tcole@abqjournal.com or 505-992-6280 in Santa Fe. Go to ABQjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.

 

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