Some Unemployment Math
CT needs to be honest about how the new unemployment website is (not) working
If you’re a listener of the Burn Barrel podcast, you might have heard us talking this week about the ongoing debacle that is the rollout of the state of Connecticut’s new unemployment filing website. In Thursday’s episode we played some of Channel 3 reporter Eliza Kruczynski’s great reporting on this topic and how the administration’s story has changed in the last couple of weeks.
Of course Ned Lamont’s administration wants us to believe that the problems are not widespread and that the vast majority of people are filing their claims without issue. Let’s check the math on that.
In the initial press release the day after launch, that was repeated uncritically by many media outlets, the state said they typically have 20,000 weekly unemployment filers and 19,900 have already created accounts on the new site. Seems fine, right? Only a half a percent of the normal filers had problems!
Well…not so fast. Of those, only 7,500 had filed their certifications. That would seem to imply that actually fewer than half of those who created accounts were able to file for their weekly benefits. But that was just in the first day! The state even bragged that $1.8 million in benefits were already paid out to 2,500 filers by that time.
So how are things going for those other 12,500 people almost two weeks later?
But hang on, this self-congratulatory press release is from the end of the SECOND week of the new system. So are the 18,000 claimants unique, or does this count people twice who filed their weekly claims two weeks in a row? If $1.8 million gets paid out to 2,500 filers one week, it certainly seems like $8.5 million wouldn’t cover 18,000 people for two weeks, or even the initial 7,500 people that filed the week before for two weeks.
Even taking these numbers at face value, roughly 2,000 or 10% of the expected 20,000 filers have not been able to file yet in the new system, which is a big enough problem in itself. But if it’s really only 10% then why have call volumes more than doubled? The Department of Labor has increased their call center staff from 90 to 140 workers and say that compared to a typical 6,800 calls a week, they received more than 17,000 calls in the second week of the new program.
And even those numbers are suspect because DOL Commissioner Dante Bartolomeo told Channel 3 that, “in May and in June, we had about 2,200-2,500 people calling the contact center every day. Since July 5, I have over 18,000 people a day calling the contact center.”
In addition, an earlier writeup in CT Mirror the day after launch noted that the call center staff had already been beefed up by 60 additional agents at that point in time! So have they actually added 110 call center staff to their normal 30? That doesn’t seem like a big cost savings to the taxpayers of Connecticut for the new “digital” “streamlined” system.