Updated: Wednesday, 28 Jul 2010, 7:35 PM EDT
Published : Wednesday, 28 Jul 2010, 4:31 PM EDT
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - If you're unemployed, check the DWD online filing system. The spokesman for the Department of Workforce Development says programming the department's computers took less time than anticipated, and some Hoosiers can begin filing for benefits immediately. You can expect payment within 48 hours of filing.
If your voucher isn't online yet, don't worry. DWD leaders say they'll add more vouchers daily.
But many Hoosiers still aren't sure whether they're eligible for the benefit extensions. You have emailed us and written us on facebook, saying the benefit extensions are confusing. Many of you have told us when you phone the DWD call center, it takes a long time to talk to a real person. And when you do, you're still confused.
So we taped a call center conversation with unemployed Hoosier, Tiffany Thompson. When she calls she gets an automated message, "Thank you for calling. You have reached the Indiana Department of Workforce Development,"
DWD's customer call center features numerous automated messages. In the past, Thompson has waited ten minutes or more to talk to a representative about her unemployment insurance claims, but DWD leaders have promised improvements.
"We've actually doubled the number of phone lines going into our call center in the last month to six weeks. We've actually increased the staff of people who are answering the phones," said Marc Lotter, spokesperson for the Department of Workforce Development.
We wanted to see for ourselves, so we asked Thompson to allow us to tape her call. When Thompson presses any number, she gets another automated message. Finally, she listened to the entire menu. The last choice is "Please hold to speak to your customer service representative."
Bingo! She waits just 12 seconds before a representative answers the call. Thompson wants to know whether she's eligible for extended benefits. When she visited the uplink online filing system, she found the word "suspended" next her claim status.
"Does that mean that I'm not eligible?, she asked the representative.
"No," the woman answered. "That means that you wasn't eligible to set up a regular claim because you haven't worked and you didn't have any wages in the base period."
Huh? Thompson doesn't understand that answer, but moves on. She asked a common question, "How do I know if I've exhausted my benefits?"
"Had you stopped getting it?" the representative asked Thomson.
"Well, the last day I stopped getting it was on the 14th," Thompson replied.
"That's because they stopped them," said the call center employee.
"Well, the money shows that it's equal out on both sides. It's the same," said Thompson referring to the two columns that show funds used and funds available. "Does this mean that I used all my money?"
"Does it say zero - exhausted?" the woman asked.
"No, but.." Thompson said.
"Then you haven't used all your money if it doesn't say exhausted," the call center representative interrupted.
The conversation sounded like the old "who's on first" joke, but for Thompson it's no laughing matter. Finally the representative looks up Thompson's case - telling she'll be on the EB claim.
"Does that mean I'll get benefits?" Thompson asked timidly. "I'm just trying -"
Yeah, you'll be on the EB claim," said the representative sounding annoyed.
"That's the thing that's confusing is the tiers. I'm not understanding how they go" Thompson answered.
"You've used your four tiers on the EUC. You'll be on the EB claim," said the representative.
The conversation ended a short time later, and Thompson said she was just as confused as she was before she called.
Before you phone the Department of Workforce Development's Call Center, you have to understand the acronyms. Many viewers have written us to say your claims were suspended. For most people, that means you've exhausted your unemployment insurance or UI. Those are your first 26 weeks of unemployment benefits.
At that point, you have to apply for EEUC, Emergency Extended Unemployment Compensation. You can get those benefits for up to 53 weeks.
After that you can apply for EB or Extended Benefits, the last tier of unemployment benefits. You can get those for up to 20 weeks.
For more answers to frequently asked questions click here.