“It’s not running smoother”: Kansans struggle to contact labor office despite new hires

Unemployment Situation

TOPEKA (KSNT) — Attempts to boost response times for the Kansas Department of Labor are falling flat for some unemployed Kansans.

“You’re still not able to get through,” Vanessa Smith, of Topeka, said. “It’s not running smoother.”

The state said it’s in the process of onboarding 500 additional employees to help with the high volume of calls. However, Smith said it’s not making a difference, having to call countless times a day to get through to talk to someone and sometimes with no luck.

“I got to 90 calls and said I’m just going to keep going to 100,” Smith said. “I did. I didn’t get through.”

The department was unavailable for an interview but sent over information about their contact center and the additional 500 hires, announced in early March.

According to the department, there are 399 employees directly dealing with claims.

“As of 04/26/21, there are 506 partners working with KDOL on different projects. In terms of surge support and specialty workstreams that directly support claims work, that number is 399. For example, these partners may include UI and PUA Contact Center support, fraud operations and correspondence or adjudications. We continue to build these numbers up over time, as we have been able to expand their capacity to handle different and more complicated claims work.”

Kansas Department of Labor

When referring to the status of the additional partners being onboarded, the department said the additional surge staff discussed in March are a mixture of KDOL employees and Accenture partners. They said the plan is to have these additional agents and surge staff up and running, a total of about another 500, on top of the existing 450 Accenture and KDOL employees supporting claimants, deployed and on the phones beginning in mid-March and continuing through the early to mid-May.

According to the agency, a final total of how many total new Accenture partners are working with the Contact Center will not be available until that time. However, if estimates were to be counted, that would be around 950 Accenture partners working with KDOL customer/claimant service.

Although the state’s unemployment rate was announced at 3.2% in March, back to pre-pandemic levels, Smith said she doubts things are getting any better, as she continues to experience issues with calling the state’s labor office.

“I don’t see a difference,” she said. “Last Monday, I got through to them after 58 calls, so if that’s running smooth… I don’t know.”

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