Unemployment filings skyrocket, overwhelming benefits call center

Hoosiers run into issues with unemployment filing

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Unemployment filings skyrocketed as coronavirus concerns gripped the nation, overwhelming the Indiana Department of Workforce Development’s benefits call center.

“Waits will be longer than usual,” the agency’s website warned, citing an “extremely high” call volume and directing people to file online.

Some callers seeking assistance with jobless claims said they faced wait times exceeding three hours.

22,583 Hoosiers filed for unemployment insurance benefits during the first three days of the week, Gov. Eric Holcomb said Thursday.

The state received approximately 3,000 filings during the same week in March 2019.

Cheryl Bush, 57, did not contribute to the historic spike in jobless claims. 

The Indianapolis resident was unable to file her claim due to limited Internet access and extended wait times at the call center, she said.

Bush couldn’t remember the password for the online account she created in 2008, the last time she filed for unemployment insurance benefits.

She doesn’t own a computer with Internet access and was hesitant to leave her home because of health concerns.

Her daughter, in northern Indiana, was unable to reset her account password for her.

For three days, Bush unsuccessfully sought assistance from Workforce Development staffers by phone.

“I waited for hours. You don’t know if you’re on hold or [if] you were disconnected,” Bush told News 8. 

She was laid off March 7 from her concession services job at the Indiana Convention Center. 

Bush, who lives with her dog, has no other income and supported herself “paycheck to paycheck,” she said.

She feared running out of money for rent, utilities, food and medicine.

“I have worked a lot of years,” she told News 8. “Right now, I feel [I worked] for nothing.”

State labor officials posted a series of YouTube tutorial videos Friday explaining how to create new accounts, reset forgotten passwords and usernames, file new claims and complete weekly claim vouchers.

Scott Olson, a spokesperson for the Department of Workforce Development, was unable to confirm the average length of Friday’s call center wait times.

Agency officials did not immediately provide a statement in response to requests for comment from News 8.

Hoosiers who file their initial unemployment claims past the typical deadline will still be eligible for benefits amid the coronavirus pandemic, Holcomb announced Thursday.