News : DLT's Call Center Aims for Speedier Service on R.I. Jobless Benefits
Cranston, RI, USA, Oct 15, 2015 -- One of the key "choke points" in Rhode Island's complicated unemployment benefits system has been the time it takes the Department of Labor and Training's call center employees to determine whether people who are out of work are eligible for unemployment benefits.
Since DLT Director Scott Jensen arrived on the job from Maryland in January, he has urged the agency to improve operations. He jumped at an early offer from Governor Raimondo to bring in Deloitte public-sector consultants to examine the center's operations, pro bono, and identify potential fixes.
Now, Jensen and other DLT employees say the agency has improved how quickly it determines whether people are eligible for benefits and how quickly it pays initial unemployment claims.
One reason for the improvements, Jensen and his team say, is a labor-management team that meets regularly to review, implement and fine-tune Deloitte's suggestions.
Jensen said it's important to make eligibility determinations quickly because the department is also expected to pay claimants their initial benefits within 14 calendar days. If the agency later determines a person wasn't eligible for benefits, the department's over-payment unit then typically has to recover what was paid to the claimant — further bogging down the system.
"The quicker you resolve the disputes around a claim, the less phone calls there are to handle," Jensen said. "That leaves us more time to take new claims and help people out."
Back in April, Jensen told more than 300 people at an economic-outlook breakfast in Providence his agency was working to fix "clearly one of the worst" unemployment-benefits systems in the country. The DLT staff, Jensen said then, was burdened "with a process that no one could manage."
As the economy continues to improve, Jensen acknowledges it's the "perfect time" to streamline processes because future downturns will inevitably require employees to handle increased workloads.
In July, DLT achieved a goal it hadn't reached in almost 10 years — it exceeded the national average on a federal standard set by the U.S. Department of Labor, said Michael Vorgetts, a senior DLT adviser whom Jensen recruited from the Maryland labor department.
DLT had struggled for years with how quickly it handled initial unemployment claims, U.S. Department of Labor records show.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Monday, October 19, 2015