CLEVELAND — The number of Ohioans filing for unemployment continues to grow with a total of 92,920 jobless claims filed for the week ending on April 25, bringing the six-week total to 1,057,486, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS).
Director Kim Hall says more than 80% of those claims have been resolved - meaning they've either been approved, denied, or otherwise withdrawn. Staff are focusing on the 19-20% of pending claims. Hall says oftentimes those claims are more complex.
Over the last six weeks, ODJFS has distributed more than $1.45 billion in unemployment compensation payments to more than 481,000 Ohioans.
While the department has employed 1,600 staff members to take calls and launched a virtual call center, the state’s unemployment system remains overwhelmed. Hall says the call center received 900,000 calls Friday.
“Our solution is automation. Continuing to enhance that, continuing to add agents," Hall said.
She says the agency is pushing to get more workers on the phone lines to handle those complex cases. It's also partnering with Amazon to automate parts of its phone system. That means every call will be answered - though not always by a human. Even then, she says it's not a perfect solution.
“Even with Amazon's structure in the system, we are able to handle simultaneously 6,000 calls in three queues so that's 18,000 simultaneously in terms of callers that could ultimately hold for an agent. We certainly don't have 18,000 agents,” Hall said.
Despite the constant challenges, she says the agency is making progress.
“Partnering with Amazon Web Services has really been helpful with in terms of chatbot virtual assistant, a more interactive phone tree to help people just check their benefit status.”
Earlier this week, News 5 spoke to a Canton resident who has been trying for weeks to get through, calling, by his estimate, 200 to 300 times. Read his story here.
All eligible Ohioans will receive their unemployment benefits and any delays in processing their claims will not reduce the amount received, according to ODJFS.