GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A state spokesperson assured those filing for unemployment that the system “is performing to serve the customers.”
“The increase in claims shows the system is working,” noted Jason Moon, communications director for Michigan’s Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity.
“We ask folks to remain patient during this time as the system may be running a bit slower at peak times. The system has experienced a tremendous increase in claims,” Moon said in a phone interview with News 8 late Tuesday morning.
Moon urged people to file via the state’s website or by calling 1.866.500.0017. He noted that the 1.866 numbers allows you to select a “call back” feature, so you will not lose your place in line.
Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency Deputy Director Kimberly Berry told News 8 that the online system handles the majority of claims and suggested people try the website during off-hours when traffic volume is lower. Berry also acknowledged call wait times are long.
“When it first started happening, the website was slow. It never crashed, it was extremely slow, but since that time we have added approximately four severs,” said Berry.
Despite the system slowing amid heavy volume, Moon said it’s clear the system is processing claims.
“The data shows the system is performing, and that this emergency financial relief is being providing to Michigan families,” Moon said.
On one recent day alone, the system processed 32,000 new claims.
Last week, 130,000 Michiganders filed for unemployment. That’s compared to the normal average of 5,100 new claims per week this time of year.
Berry said the department has also reassigned employees to work the phones and extended the hours of staff to process claims.
“If you’re online and you’re filing a claim and you get stuck, please click the chat feature because we do have customer service representatives waiting for to assist people,” Berry said.
Moon said the state will continue to monitor the claim system traffic closely.
Several filers contacted the News 8’s newsroom to say they could not get through online or on the 1.866 number.
“We have been trying since Friday the 20th of March in order to get unemployment help and assistance. They are not answering their phones … I have tried to call them 145 times,” one frustrated would-be filer wrote.
Beverly Scott from the Grand Rapids area added the system is putting her in an infinite loop and is not moving her claim forward.
“I’m getting hung up on creating an account. You go through and enter in all your information and you click submit and it just doesn’t happen,” she told News 8 in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon.
She suggested more server capacity is needed to handle the increase in claims.
“It all comes down to the website is just not able to handle the amount of traffic that’s coming into it,” Scott said.
The brick-and-mortar UIA offices are closed but are taking customers by appointment. Those who contacted News 8 said security officers are turning everyone else away.
“I have been laid off from my job. I have been trying to file a claim for unemployment online since Thursday, March 19th. The process seems to have gotten locked up in the authentication process,” one person trying to file wrote. “Therefore, I cannot get to the point to actually file a claim. I also cannot go back to redo the process. I have tried to call the UIA over 200 times without any answer. How are we going to be able to get unemployment if the process does not work to apply??? I do not know who to contact to get the help I need. I am assuming others are having trouble, too?”