JEFFERSON CITY -- The Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations' Division of Employment Security (DES) has taken a number of steps to deal with the increased volume of work it currently is experiencing in the state's Regional Claims Centers. These steps include hiring experienced part-time workers to assist with the workload; hiring and training new staff; extending work hours from 7:30 a.m., to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday; and working overtime daily and on Saturdays. In addition, the DES is currently in the process of hiring 35 emergency temporary helpers, and is utilizing staff from other sections within the DES to assist with the workload.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Labor released data that indicated a net total of 533,000 jobs lost in November, pushing the national unemployment rate to 6.7 percent.
The current high rate of unemployment in Missouri and the passage of federal extended unemployment benefits have greatly increased the number of calls into the Regional Claims Centers, which are operated by the DES. The increased volume of work the DES is experiencing has caused difficulty for Missourians attempting to reach a claims representative, and has delayed the processing of claims.
"The increase in jobless claims being filed is not just exclusive to Missouri; this is a nationwide trend," said Spencer Clark, DES Acting Director. "The department's changes are an attempt to adapt to a nationwide economy that saw 533,000 lost jobs last month -- the biggest drop in 34 years."
The fastest way for claimants to file for unemployment benefits is to file online at www.moclaim.com. Federally extended unemployment benefits cannot be filed online.
Missourians not filing an initial unemployment claim should contact a Regional Claims Center at one of the following telephone numbers: Jefferson City, 573-751-9040; Kansas City, 816-889-3101; Springfield, 417-895-6851; St. Louis, 314-340-4950; toll-free, 800-320-2519.
The automated telephone system can be used to obtain most claim information without holding for a representative. The system can be used to obtain information on the claim effective date and balance; the most recent week claimed, previous weeks claimed and the status of those weeks; and information on the status of an appeal.
If payment has been issued, the automated system provides the date and method of payment. If a benefit week is denied, the automated system provides the reason benefits were denied. The automated system also provides information when a claim cannot be processed due to an outstanding issue. When an individual is separated from an employer for any reason other than a lack of work, the reason for separation can affect the payment of benefits. Until an investigation can be completed, the automated system will provide the message that the claim is pending.
Under normal work conditions, it takes approximately 3-4 weeks to complete the investigation process when an employee is separated for a reason other than lack of work. However, under the atypical conditions the DES is experiencing, it currently is taking approximately 6-8 weeks for this determination of eligibility process. Missourians should note, however, that after the filing of an initial claim, there is no delay in the processing if the employee is laid off due to a lack of work and no other issues are raised. The claims process is delayed when the reason for separation is other than lack of work or another issue presents itself that requires the claim to be adjudicated.
"I advise individuals to avoid using the phone lines as much as they can," said Clark. "Initial claims can be filed, and many questions can be answered at www.moclaim.com.\"