Updated: Friday, 30 Jul 2010, 10:37 AM EDT
Published : Thursday, 29 Jul 2010, 7:05 PM EDT
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - We continue our focus on Indiana Unemployed by taking our camera inside a WorkOne office to talk to the commissioner of the Department of Workforce Development.
You've contacted us through email and Facebook with problems you've had getting your unemployment benefits. Thursday, we talked to the commissioner about your concerns and what we've learned in our investigations. The critical question: Is the department well-staffed, well-trained, and prepared to handle the influx of 80,000 unemployed Hoosiers with newly extended benefits?
Robin Woods visits the WorkOne office in Kokomo frequently. For weeks, she has questioned employees about why she hasn't been getting her unemployment benefits. She says each time she was told, "'We don't know.'"
Recently, she asked the same questions, but on that occasion, we asked her to wear a 24-Hour news 8 microphone.
Woods asked the WorkOne employee, "Is there a reason why the vouchers weren't generated that Sunday? They give you a reason at all?"
"We don't know what it is," the WorkOne employee mumbled as we taped the conversation.
On Thursday, the Commissioner of the Department of Workforce Development invited us inside a WorkOne office, a place our cameras are usually not allowed. He insists the offices are well-staffed. Asked if he believes retraining is necessary, he replied, "Well, you can always do better. But I'm proud of the work that our folks are doing considering the stress of this situation."
He says the laws governing unemployment compensation are complicated. That was evident when we taped a phone conversation between an unemployed Hoosier Tiffany Thompson and a representative from the DWD call center..
"Does that mean I'll get benefits?" Thompson asked. I'm just trying - "
"Yeah you'll be on the EB claim," the representative interrupted.
"That's the thing that's confusing is the tiers," Thompson replied. I'm not understanding how they go.
"You've used your four tiers on the EUC," said the representative. "You'll be the EB claim."
The representative didn't explain the acronyms, nor did she explain that workers new to the final tier of benefits - EB or Extended Benefits - will not receive a voucher on line. Instead the DWD will send them a letter. They'll then be required to apply for EB benefits at a WorkOne office.
Thompson and other viewers complain that representatives at the DWD call center fail to explain the intricacies of filing for unemployment.
Asked if the DWD provides its call center employees with training on interpreting the complicated language of unemployment law, Commissioner Everson replied, "There is training but the thing is, this is a little bit like the tax code. There are things that are very complicated, and that always can be difficult to explain to someone, particularly someone who is hoping for just a yes or no answer."
He points to what he believes are his department's successes - like quickly programming the computers to allow them to begin paying newly extended benefits days before originally expected. That computer programming will be put to the test in the days ahead.
The commissioner says Hoosiers are already getting those newly-extended benefits. The Department paid out about $6 million in benefits today. If you have questions, the 27 WorkOne full service offices across the state will be open extended hours - Saturday 9:00 a.m. until one p.m., and Monday through Friday 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.
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