There are now 696,519 unemployment claims filed in Ohio, more claims in the past month than in the past two years. Frustration and desparation has increased with wait times and disconnects, and Ohio Department of Job and Family Services has raced to catch up with the need.
Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted says the department has increased their call center staff from 42 before the pandemic began to 1,194 - and there are plans to add another 337 soon. He says other changes will be made by the end of the week.
"They will add text-to-speech capabilities; those should create some efficiencies. Before the end of the week they will introduce an interactive voice recognition system and bot technology that will provide two ways to answer those frequently asked questions so you don't have to wait on the line and talk to an actual person."
Husted says the department will add more services by the end of *next* week...
"They will launch a virtual call center to speed up wait times for people who need to call to talk to somebody at the office, so they're going to add that. They will begin processing the additional $600 payments authorized under the federal CARES ACT. They will launch an online tool for self-employed 1099 workers to get in line early."
Husted says money will not start going out to those 1099 employees until mid-May, but benefits will be paid retroactively from the date of unemployment.