Unemployment office taking steps to address surge in calls

Michael Lopardi

Photo: Video by ktnv.com

Unemployment office taking steps to address surge in calls

CREATED Sep. 5, 2013

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- The state's unemployment office is taking steps to address a surge in telephone calls after implementing a new computer system.

The Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation said it will open two call centers on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. to alleviate the volume. The agency also added two phone numbers to assist callers.

The office began phasing in a new computer benefits system this week but the web-based component is not up and running just yet. People who would typically file a new unemployment claim or file certification on their weekly claim through the internet instead swamped the agency's phone system.

"I would hope that we would see 3,000 to 4,000 calls come through the system and alleviate some of the pressure that's been on the system," unemployment insurance operations chief Jeffrey Frischmann said in preparation for Saturday.

Frischmann said the call centers' telephone system received 70,000 phone hits on Wednesday alone; operators handled roughly 5,000 calls, about double their average call volume.

But the frustration and anger is coming from many people who said they are reaching a busy signal.

"There's nothing I can do except sit here and keep pushing a redial button and see if I can get through," said Carol Lehman of Las Vegas.

Lehman, who lost her job last year and is seeking employment, said she would typically refile her claim online but the system is not up yet.

"Those phones are just busy and they're not just busy at 8 o'clock in the morning," said Lehman. "They're busy before 8 o'clock in the morning."

Frischmann said people who need to file their weekly certification claim should try the agency's 24-hour automated phone system between the hours of 5 p.m. and 8 a.m.

The new system, which replaces a 30-year-old system, needed to be restarted on Wednesday morning but has only experienced minor glitches, Frischmann said. So far, the system has processed and posted about $3 million in benefits this week, Frischmann said. The state is cautiously rolling out the web system in stages and expects it to be operational in about two days.

Frischmann said the agency is also dealing with complications from the Labor Day holiday schedule and cuts to federal extended unemployment benefits because of the sequester.

If you are unable to reach the office's main numbers 775-684-0350 or 702-486-0350, the agency said to try the new, additional numbers: 775-684-3387 or 702-486-3387.