State officials address issues filing unemployment claims

Asst. Secretary Lockhart Taylor addresses unemployment claim concerns

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Businesses across the state were abruptly forced to shut down in March to prevent further spread of the coronavirus. Tens of thousands of people in North Carolina now find themselves out of work, and many are trying to navigate filing an unemployment claim for the very first time.

Assistant Secretary of the Division of Employment Security Lockhart Taylor addressed issues the community has faced while trying to file for unemployment claims.

Numerous people have reported having trouble logging into the website, getting kicked off or locked out of the systems, or unable to get through the Employment Security Office’s toll-free number.

"We've taken immediate action in the face of this historic challenge," Taylor said. "We hear your frustration."

The North Carolina Employment Security Office was given clearance to add a 50-person call center to handle the unprecedented number of unemployment claims being filed.

Taylor said interviews for those positions took place over the weekend via Zoom, and some of the new employees began the onboarding process earlier this week, with more to come.

According to Taylor, there are steps taking place to move the call center to a cloud-based platform to better disperse calls. They are modifying the phone system to improve quality.

Additionally, Taylor said they are working to bring on 350 people to help individuals and businesses respond to and file claims.

"We will continue to listen, monitor and serve those who need it," Taylor said. "I promise we will do it faster. We know our job is just beginning. We will not rest until we've processed every claim and answered every phone call."

After filing a claim, it will take about two weeks to receive the first payment.

According to the NC Department of Commerce, the additional $600 in federal benefits will be four weeks ending April 4-July 31, but DES is awaiting guidance for issuing those payments. Benefits owed will be paid retroactively.

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