Springfield city councilors urge Gov. Charlie Baker to add Saturdays to unemployment office call cen

Read the original article by The Republican's Pete Goonan here.

SPRINGFIELD — With the coronaviurs causing unemployment claims to soar, city councilors have urged Gov. Charlie Baker to expand the state’s call center hours on Saturdays to help expedite the applications.

“We believe that this would help resolve the backlog of cases as well as expedite processing time for those who are in desperate need of immediate assistance,” councilors said in a letter submitted to Baker and state labor officials.

Due to coronavirus pandemic, unemployment claims are being processed online and by phone contact, using remote staff.

Last week, the state Department of Unemployment Assistance handled approximately 150,000 new unemployment claims, a nearly 2000% increase over the previous week, spurred by the closing of non-critical businesses under the coronavirus and the state of emergency, officials said.

Councilors led by Ward 8 Councilor Orlando Ramos, praised Baker and his administration for their response to COVID-19, but said they have received complaints from some constituents regarding issues related to their unemployment claims.

Councilors said that while they are aware that the state has taken steps to deal with the spike in unemployment claims, including expanded staff, “it has become evident to us that the system still seems to be overwhelmed.”

The proposed calls for call-in hours to be added on Saturdays throughout the month of April as one new measure to help with the backlog, they said.

Councilors listed on the letter, which was emailed to the Governor, included Ramos, Council President Justin Hurst, and Councilors Adam Gomez, Tracye Whitfield, Jesse Lederman and Marcus Williams.

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