FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — As businesses are closing their doors, thousands are filing for unemployment claims as the coronavirus continues to takes its toll on several industries.
The new unemployment hotline kicked off Monday but with some hiccups. Just like the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services
Governor Asa Hutchinson announced Sunday that eight to ten thousand Arkansans have filed for unemployment in recent days. Matthew bourdon is one of them.
”I was called and told I was being let go from my job with lots of other people in the company. I’m home now. I’ve lost my job, my wife’s job is up in the air and we have our 9-year-old son.
Bourdon worked for a trucking company and was laid off over the weekend. Come Monday he attempted to apply for unemployment benefits online.
“I waited until 6 o’clock this morning to beat everyone and get registered and the site crashed and it won’t work.”
He called a newly created hotline to help speed up the filing of his application. After about 40 mins of trying to get through, the operator tells him they won’t be able to process his application and to go to his local DWS office. A problem, the state is aware of.
“There are so many people working remotely that it’s put a strain on the system, so those of you are we watching and frustrated be patient. Keep calling!”
Keeping calling is the answer Secretary of Commerce, Mike Preston said. State workers are tackling the issues including increasing the capacity for calls. Governor Hutchinson has also made a request to the general assembly to approve $1.1 million to upgrade the IT system.
Preston said the requirement to file in person has been waved and people are encouraged to use the hotline or file online.”We don’t want people coming in. We need to protect the safety and wellbeing of our employees there, who are processing it. If those folks get sick then we will that much further behind because we will be down people who are processing it.”
Bourdon said the entire process was frustrating. He waited outside a local office with several other laid-off workers and handed his application off to a DWS employee wearing gloves. “She said if they can get back in then you’ll get something electronically that we have processed your claim then you can start collecting on the weekend… but she didn’t even know if the website would be working.”
Preston said they have people working around the clock to alleviate the pressures of filling online and over the phone. He also expects to have an IT team up an