Many still having problems with Workforce Solutions

Posted at: 01/09/2013 10:47 PM
By: Maria Guererro, KOB Eyewitness News 4

It’s day four of New Mexico’s new online unemployment claim system and some claimants are still frustrated.

Most of the 182,000 calls into Workforce Solutions have been from unemployed New Mexicans who woke up to find their benefit account balance at $0.

The state said thousands of unemployed people may not get their benefits for up to three weeks.

A local woman who shared her story Tuesday night on KOB Eyewitness News 4 got results on Wednesday.

A huge weight has been lifted off Felicia Colon’s shoulders. The Pena Blanca single mother told KOB4 on Tuesday her unemployment benefits simply vanished on the state’s new online claim system. After calling 36 times, Colon drove to Workforce Connections in Albuquerque.

"They were like ‘we're going to take care of it. This problem shouldn't have happened. Your balance was actually deleted because it shouldn't have been deleted with the new system,’" Colon said she was told.

She is one of 7,000 unemployed New Mexicans who had been receiving benefits through the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program.

That program was set to end December 31. The deadline passed before Congress approved the extension.

"Nobody was kicked off either in the transition of the systems or when December 31 came and went," said Celina Bussey, Workforce Solutions Secretary.

Bussey said out of the 7,000 people in this program, 1,000 have already been paid their benefits. The remaining 6,000 people need to talk to an agent directly.

The state said they have to review each case individually to see if that person is still eligible for the federal benefits. Bussey added it wouldn’t be uncommon for this group of people to have to wait up to three weeks before getting their benefits.

Still, Bussey called the system a success.

When asked to respond to criticism about saying the system’s implementation has gone “perfectly,” while dozens of people say they have waited up to three hours to get through to someone, Bussey said:

“I can say that not only myself but as well as the governor as well as every person who's answering on the other end of the phone there's huge empathy with these individuals… From a system perspective, it is a 100% success. It's just got a lot of users right now that it didn't have as of last week so it is going to take a little bit of time for everyone to be comfortable.”

One viewer in Mescalero said she also has a zero account balance. But when she tried calling the local office in Ruidoso, she said she was told no one there could help her.

Bussey’s advice: Keep calling until someone answers.