The Benefits Backlog Beat Down

I have never been laid off from work, knock on wood. But I have worked with and known many people that have. In the business of consulting, it is frequently the case that timing is everything. Those that suddenly find themselves “on the bench” during a downturn are susceptible to “productivity plans”. And those unable to achieve goals set for them by others may soon find themselves looking for new work. Those that do find themselves suddenly and unexpectedly unemployed in Virginia may be facing an unwelcome backlog in the processing of their request for unemployment benefits.

A few days ago, the Washington Post had a brief article about a decision by the Virginia Employment Commission to continue offering Saturday hours at the Customer Contact Center. In making this decision, the VEC cited current and expected demand, and reiterated guidance that the preferred method for making unemployment benefit claims is via the web. While the article did not explicitly say so, it appears to me that the Customer Contact Center serves as a call center for those wishing to apply for unemployment benefits. The high volume of calls, coupled with software problems, has led to a backlog. Hence, the decision to continue operating for limited hours on Saturdays, even in the face of tighter state budgets.

According to this article

Daily, calls to the VEC Customer Contact Center are in the tens of thousands.

… the increased workload comes at a time when there are fewer people to handle the claims.

Back in March, the VEC had to reduce its staff by 250 people because of federal funding shortfall. Nine months later, the impact is still evident.

The staff reductions earlier this year at the VEC have lead to a Catch-22 of sorts. If it were not so serious, especially to those genuinely in need of benefits, it would almost be funny. Almost.

Unemployed

Unemployed

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