BOISE, Idaho — Weeks of waiting, hours on hold -- those are two frequently voiced grievances from Idahoans who've filed claims for unemployment benefits, and still haven't received payments, or even an answer about their claims.
Laid-off Idaho workers have filed 141,628 initial claims for unemployment benefits during the ten weeks of Idaho's COVID-19 state of emergency.
That's almost two-and-a-half times the total number of initial claims filed in all of 2019.
With a goal of shortening hold times for claimants, the Idaho Department of Labor has contracted with a call center to provide additional agents for people who want to talk to someone about issues such as an existing claim, starting a new claim or unlocking an account.
Those 30 additional agents will begin taking calls on Monday.
The labor department also has a new toll-free number - (833) 410-1009.
The call center will be staffed to answer calls from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time Monday-Friday. Spanish-speaking agents will also be available.
Everyone who calls the department about an unemployment claim will be directed to that toll-free number.
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In a news release sent Friday, the department says the additional resources will free up staff to handle more complex issues.
The Labor Department also has recently hired 20 people and continues to use staff members from other divisions in the agency to help handle the increase in claims.
Governor Brad Little has said that new federal programs related to the coronavirus pandemic, along with the deluge of job losses, are affecting the timeliness of the response to unemployment claims.
"Nobody anticipated that in two weeks we would get the same amount of claims we had in all last year," Little said Tuesday in a telephone town hall. "I'm not making excuses for it. It's unacceptable, but we are throwing a lot of resources and a lot of time."
Idaho Department of Labor Director Jani Revier is scheduled to join the governor in a telephone town hall hosted by AARP Idaho scheduled for Tuesday, June 2. More information about participating in that call-in event will be posted soon.
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