Workforce Solutions, claimants at odds

Posted at: 01/08/2013 10:18 PM
By: Maria Guererro, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Despite being the busiest time of the year for Workforce Solutions, the department felt it was the best time to roll out a brand new system to process claims faster. For many unemployed New Mexicans, that’s simply not happening.

Like chores around the house, the problems keep piling up for Felicia Colon. First, the Pena Blanca single mother lost her job in October. Now, her financial security has vanished.

"I can't sleep,” Colon said. “It's been horrible; just laying there thinking ‘How am I going to give food to my children?’"

Colon said she qualified for 14 weeks of unemployment benefits starting at the end of October. She tried navigating through the new, online claim system only to find her weekly benefit amount at $0. She said no one at Workforce Solutions seems to know why.

"We don't know what's going on,” Colon said a representative told her on the phone. “We can't certify you. We found out you weren't the only person this is happening to. There's something going on with the link in the new system"

"She needs to continue to call," said Celina Bussey, Secretary of the Department of Workforce Solutions. Bussey said a lot of other people haven’t had trouble using the system that’s been in place since Sunday. She added all certifications made Sunday and Monday have been paid.

Bussey said the department has gotten more than 150,000 calls since Monday. "It has actually been a complete success,” said Bussey. “For over 16,000 people to have gone through a brand-new implemented system and had no issue in filing their certification, we know the system is working perfectly."

But KOB Eyewitness News 4 was there when Colon tried calling again like Bussey advised and the machine said: "At this time all available agents are assisting other callers. Please try your call again later," before cutting the call.

"What am I going to do,” questioned Colon. “I couldn't even pay my gas bill. I had to get money from my mom to pay my gas bill. "

There are about 7,000 New Mexicans getting benefits as part of the Emergency Compensation Program. Those benefits were going to expire at the end of 2012, but were extended.

If you are one of the people under this program, the secretary said you have to talk to a customer service agent directly on the phone (not online) to check if you’re still able to get those benefits.