Labor Department Secretary Jerry Oleksiak and his deputies took on some tough criticism about the clogged phone lines and major delays in payment — some still with no money seven weeks out of work.
“I must express my outrage at the department’s inability to process the benefits rightly owed to thousands of constituents,” said state Sen. John DiSanto.
“These are our own constituents, they need answers for their own survival,” said state Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill.
Oleksiak reminded them they went from handling 200,000 unemployed workers to 1.8 million in a matter of weeks.
“Am I frustrated? Yes, I am frustrated. I told you, I have family members who are waiting,” he said.
He also outlined the increase in staff, claim agents and communication efforts.
“But we know that this isn’t enough, so we are doubling our capacity to answer phones on Mondays and Tuesdays, which are typically our busiest days,” he added.
Lawmakers also noted other issues the department has to work with in handling more than 1,300 COVID-19 workers’ compensation claims and continuing upgrades to the system.