AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - With the holiday season upon us and bills starting to pile up, people entitled to unemployment benefits are not getting them.
Frustration has been mounting since the state Department of Labor launched its new claim filing system one week ago called ReEmployME. It's called a national model that is touted as a faster, more efficient way to file claims. But that has not been the case for some people.
Out of work for a few months, Phil Boyd is studying to become a medical assistant. But it’s not the class work that’s causing him stress, it’s his finances.
“It’s really quite frustrating. This will be, if nothing gets taken care of in the next couple of days, it will be three weeks without any funds”, he said.
Boyd has been receiving unemployment benefits since September with no problems. Then the state’s new claims filing system went on line last week.
“It shows my claim was processed on the 6th and there’s a pending issue with my claim", he said.
"What’s the issue?", he was asked.
"I don’t know, a pending issue, it doesn’t tell you what the issue is”, he said.
With rent, car payments and medical bills due, Boyd has been calling the Department of Labor every half hour. This is what he gets.
“Because of extremely high call volume, we are unable to answer your call at this time”, said the recorded voice on the other end of the line.
Before callers were allowed to hold until someone answers, now they no longer have that option. Boyd is not alone.
“People are doing everything they’re supposed to do, they’re figuring it out and they’re not getting any satisfaction from unemployment”, said Robin English.
English worked a seasonal job in Bar Harbor that ended around Thanksgiving. She too has been informed there’s an issue with her claim, without any explanation as to what the issue is.
“I am so frustrated, I really am. I don’t want to send out my Christmas cards, I can’t do my Christmas shopping, I’m not paying insurances that need to be paid. It’s frustrating”, she said.
English is also headed towards three weeks without any benefits. She did get an appointment next week to discuss her claim. Phil Boyd hasn’t been so lucky.
“Where are you right now?", he was asked.
"Nowhere, I have not been able to speak with anyone”, he said.
The Department of Labor says about 800 claimants have been affected by what it calls communication and data issues associated with switching over to the new system. Officials acknowledge they've received an overwhelming amount of calls. They're now extending the hours of the customer service lines from 12:30pm to 4:00pm to address claimants questions.