Business

Computer glitch means NC jobless can't collect

Posted May 4, 2012 3:26 p.m. EDT
Updated May 4, 2012 7:50 p.m. EDT

— The Division of Employment Security website has been down since late Thursday, locking out those who log on to update their benefits.

Spokesman Larry Parker said the division's web and phone services were offline as the result of a mainframe problem, but that people could update their files by visiting a local DES office. However, visits and calls to offices in Raleigh, Smithfield, Durham and Cary showed computers there were offline as well.

"They said everything was down all across the state," said Kwame Manigault. He was trying to update his banking information at the Raleigh DES office. 

Jason Miller was trying to file his weekly jobless certification. He wasn't able to file online, and said Raleigh office staff told him they couldn't help him, either. He said they also told him his check might be delayed as a result. "You don't get your money until whenever their systems come back up."

"Actually, it's my anniversary," said Miller, who's been out of work for three months. "I was looking forward to having that money." 

Parker said claims could be made on paper, in person. "We do have a form that is available at all of our offices statewide called a 506-D that allows them to manually answer those questions to file a certification," he said. He added that office staff told him Miller was offered that option.

WRAL wasn't offered any such option. We called unemployment offices in Smithfield, Cary, and Durham. Workers at all three offices said the computers were down and they were not able to process weekly claims. No one we spoke with mentioned a paper form.

"I'm going to have to check into that," Parker said, "but unfortunately, I've been told differently - that folks have been filing weekly certifications at local offices today."

Parker said DES would work on the problem around the clock in hopes of being back online by Sunday, when a lot of people file their weekly claims.  

It is not the first time that technical problems have surfaced at the DES. In 2009, as the recession swept across the state and pushed unemployment to record levels, filers saw the website crash repeatedly, delaying benefits and increasing stress for the jobless. Friday's glitch means those collecting benefits, who must re-certify their status weekly, are unable to get a check. 

An audit in March showed the state had overpaid almost $700,000 in unemployment benefits in 2010-11. Between July 2008 and June 2011, the U.S. Department of Labor found that North Carolina paid $534 million more than it should have in unemployment benefits.

In the past two years, audits revealed more than $1 million in overpaid unemployment benefits, caused by a computer glitch that took months to fix. The commission borrowed nearly $3 million from the federal government, which it hasn't paid back yet.