As unemployment figures continue growing in Oklahoma, many laid off in the energy industry, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission has taken steps to reduce wait times and increase the training of some of its service agents.
The OESC announced the increased training is for its Tier 2 claims services agents who handle the more complex issues of an individual’s unemployment claim. The agents have to explain eligibility requirements, request specific documentation, place outgoing calls to provide claimant assistance, and address employer concerns who protest a claim for qualifying decisions to terminate employment.
“Training of Tier 2 claims service agents typically takes six weeks,” said OESC Executive Director Robin Roberson. “We’ve reduced that training down to a few hours to increase our ability to respond to the tremendous influx of wage claims related to COVID-19 and the energy crisis.”
The number of Tier 2 claims agents continues to grow. OESC added an additional 26 agents this week to assist with these more complex claim issues. Training is continuing daily and, on the weekend, to further expand the overall number agents to 200 by Monday.
“We have 11 retirees who have come back to help us get these claims processed,” Roberson said. “Along with many volunteers from other agencies, we are making strides daily to improve the claims process.”
Today, OESC has more than 940 active Tier 1 agents working call center lines. During the first three hours of operation, more than 3,100 calls had been answered out of 3,200 calls received. The average wait time to speak to a claim specialist has dropped to 31 seconds on average. The longest wait time was less than 36 minutes compared to over 7 hours one week ago. The number of people who gave up waiting for a claim specialist has dropped from over 86 percent last week to 1.04 percent as of this morning.
“We are proud of the assistance we’ve received and of our ability to be responsive to the needs of almost 200,000 Oklahomans out of work and looking for relief,” Roberson said. “We look forward to being able to offer assistance to claimants who don’t qualify for regular unemployment assistance in the very near future.”
OESC has ramped up its procedures, call center, and website to assist Oklahomans apply for unemployment assistance and to process claims. The agency is awaiting authority from USDOL to implement the next phase of Pandemic Unemployment Relief to gig workers, independent contractors and other self-employed individuals.
The agency is one of 26 states already paying the additional $600 weekly benefit amount authorized and funded by the CARES Act. These additional benefit payments will continue through July 25, 2020.
The agency is also already assisting claimants with the additional 13 weeks of expanded benefits for individuals whose regular unemployment benefits have expired or are set to expire.
Filing online at www.oesc.ok.gov remains the quickest way to process an Unemployment Insurance claim.