DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – In North Carolina, unemployed workers and employers continue to struggle to use the Department of Employment Security’s website to file for unemployment benefits.
DES officials said they have been overwhelmed since the coronavirus cases began.
As of Thursday afternoon, more than 355,000 claims for unemployment benefits had been filed and officials said that averages to 1,000 claims an hour.
Cindy Somasunderam owns Blue Spoon in downtown Chapel Hill. She recently had to lay off 10 of her employees.
Her ice cream and coffee shop used to be filled with laughter and conversation from UNC-Chapel Hill students. Now the dining area is empty and the only sounds are from the humming of the ice cream machine.
“It’s tough. This should be our busiest time of year,” Somasunderam said.
Somasunderam said another thing that has been tough has been accessing the DES website. As an employer, she was asked to create an account on the DES website so she could provide separation information for a worker she laid off.
While she was able to create an account, Somasunderam said she has been waiting four days for her account to be approved. She said she cannot get a hold of anyone with DES by phone or online to help her get her account approved.
“When I call, it says to go online, but when I go online, it says to call,” Somasunderam said. “So I’m just getting the runaround there.”
She said she is concerned her employee won’t get the unemployment money she deserves.
“They work hard and through no fault of their own they can’t work now,” Somasunderam said. “They should be able to get their benefits.”
However, DES officials said in a press conference on Thursday afternoon that relief is in sight.
“We know that a lot of people have had problems accessing our system or getting through on the phone. This is not acceptable,” said Lockhart Taylor, Assistant Secretary for Employment Security for the North Carolina Department of Commerce.
Taylor said they are adding 350 employees to handle employment requests. He also said they are upgrading the telephone system to handle more calls.
“I want to assure North Carolinians that we know our job is just beginning, and we will not rest until we’ve processed every claim and answered every question and every phone call,” Taylor said.
If you need to file for unemployment, the Department of Commerce said to call the customer call center at 1-888-737-0259. It isn’t open around the clock.
However, officials do hope to expand the hours to 8 p.m. at night and will soon be open on Saturday as well.
Click here to file for unemployment.
People having trouble either creating or signing into their online accounts can email NCDESpasswordhelp@nccommerce.com.
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