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‘Higher than normal call volume’ leads to state government phone line outage

Maine Dept. of Labor’s Unemployment Insurance and DHHS experience the greatest impacts from the outage.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine state government phone lines were down from about 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Monday due to “higher than normal call volume,” Dept. of Administrative and Financial Services Director of Communications Kyle Hadyniak told NEWS CENTER Maine.

The greatest impacts were experienced with the Maine Dept. of Labor’s (MDOL) Unemployment Insurance line and the Dept. of Health and Human Service (DHHS) line.

“Maine’s Office of Information Technology identified the problem and worked quickly with [Consolidated Communications] to get the phone systems back online by late morning,” Hadyniak said. “We apologize for any inconvenience this caused.”

Since the coronavirus outbreak hit Maine, resulting in statewide business closures, the MDOL has seen an unprecedented influx of unemployment claims. There were 21,495 initial unemployment claims filed with the MDOL the week of March 15-21, compared to just 634 the week before. And although the filing process is done online, the complicated nature of filing claims has led to quickly filled phone queues to its 1-800-593-7660 helpline.

"This really was almost an overnight impact on our system," MDOL Commissioner Laura Fortman said. 

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The department usually has 13 unemployment insurance claim specialists. Right now they have about 30 people cobbled together from within the department of labor and across state government. 

They're also in the process of hiring more to meet the demand as quickly as possible.

The unemployment line is open Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

In addition to a coronavirus and public health question helpline, DHHS manages the state's crisis hotlines, including abuse and suicide prevention helplines. 

MDOL and DHHS did not immediately return NEWS CENTER Maine’s call for comment on the outage.

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