Maryland adding more staff to reduce unemployment backlog and answer phones

Posted at 6:00 AM, Feb 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-24 17:17:30-05

BALTIMORE — The Maryland Department of Labor continues to staff up to handle the hundreds of thousands of unemployment insurance claims.

On Wednesday, the Board of Public Works will review vendor contracts worth more $150 million to get more people answering calls and working through the backlog of nearly 40,000 pending claims.

The Department is requesting approval of a $70.9 million emergency procurement award with Alorica to supply augmentation staffing, which will provide immediate assistance adjudicating pending claims.

The Department is also seeking approval of a $1.6 million contract with Elegant Enterprise-Wide Solution, Inc. to resolve data conversion issues between the old and new systems.

And $79.8 million in addition to the $22 million contract with Accenture to continue adding more virtual call center agents. The modification increases temporary staff to 1,275 call center agents with 100 new agents being trained every week beginning the first week of March.

All three contracts would be funded with money from the federal government.

"You can call, and I know some people still have a hard time getting through, but there’s the option for the callback if they’re early enough in the queue to get that option," said Secretary of Labor Tiffany Robinson in an interview with WMAR-2 News Mallory Sofastaii.

Robinson said the state brought in more than 160 Alorica adjudicators since the end of December, and they've already started making a dent.

"In a matter of 60 days, they’ve already resolved about 14,000 claims that’s an extreme benefit to our customer base and our pending backlog," said Robinson.

Staff will still need to be trained, but Robinson said they're working as quickly as they can.

"Even though our vendors are competing for resources across the country and they are, every unemployment insurance division across the nation is in the same situation, so our vendors are recruiting and training staff as fast as they can," Robinson said.

She added that they also have plans to bring on a new vendor in the coming weeks to more efficiently review identity verification documents.

"We also just closed a new RFP for a new vendor that will be starting very soon to help us review identity verification documents in a more streamlined electronic fashion so we won’t have to do all of that manually," said Robinson.

READ MORE: Direct deposit will soon be available to Maryland unemployment insurance claimants

The Department announced on Tuesday that Maryland is switching payment benefit vendors from Bank of America to Wells Fargo. Beginning in April, unemployment insurance claimants will begin receiving their benefit payments through direct deposit.