Facing a flurry of complaints from Berkshire residents, the five members of the county’s state legislative delegation have co-sponsored a letter outlining their concerns with the state’s new online unemployment benefit system.
The letter, dated Aug. 23, was signed by State Sen. Benjamin Downing, D-Pittsfield, and the county’s four state representatives, William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, Paul Mark, D-Peru, Gailanne Cariddi, D-North Adams, and Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield.
It was sent to Joanne Goldstein, the secretary of the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development, and Michelle Amante, who runs the Division of Unemployment Assistance.
The letter calls on the state agency to address problems detailed by the lawmakers based on feedback from the public. Examples listed in the letter include, "a long waiting period on DUA phone lines ... many constituents report waiting over an hour before being disconnected."
Goldstein replied to the Berkshire delegation’s letter on Aug. 30. In her written response she stated that officials are "acutely aware" that some claimants are experiencing "wait times" as long as "40 minutes," which have since been reduced to 30 minutes.
"We want every claimant to get through as soon as possible," Goldstein added, noting that the state has hired about about 100 additional call-center staffers, and provided extra training.