DLI issues over 35,000 payments to Montanans, makes staff adjustments to account for increase in UI calls

The Montana Department of Labor & Industry today announced that over 35,000 Unemployment Insurance (UI) payments were distributed from March 23 through April 1, providing benefits to Montanans that have lost their job, or have had to reduce work hours due to COVID-19.

“This number shows our ability to make adjustments to support our customer needs and the expansion of UI eligibility moving forward,” Acting Commissioner Brenda Nordlund said. “I want to encourage all Montanans with UI questions to first visit our website as most questions can be answered by reviewing the wide range of information posted on our COVID-19 resource guide. While our call volume is high, there are still options for Montanans with UI questions.”

From March 23 through April 1. DLI’s UI phone line received over 473,829 phone calls. This unprecedented volume of calls has led to difficulties for some Montanans to access answers to their specific questions. To help alleviate this level of call volume, DLI has trained 70 Job Service and Employment Relations employees to assist with commonly asked phone inquiries, including PIN resets, security word, and job attachment questions. Additionally, DLI is in the process of reassigning other current agency employees and bringing back retired staff members with UI experience. 

DLI is encouraging those with technical, eligibility, or benefits questions regarding the UI claimant portal on MontanaWorks.gov to first view the COVID-19 resource website at dli.mt.gov/employer-covid-19 before calling. There are multiple FAQ documents that may be able to answer questions. In addition, Montanans with access to computers can apply for UI online at MontanaWorks.gov to ensure that the phone lines are open for people who have been specifically instructed to call DLI or for those people who do not have internet access.

On Friday, federal lawmakers agreed to a significant expansion of the nation’s unemployment insurance program. Once Montana receives guidance from the U.S. Labor Department, DLI will work to implement the CARES Act programs as quickly as possible.

 

“Help is on the way, and we are working to implement the changes as soon as possible ,” said Nordlund. “We appreciate people being patient as we work through the details with our federal partners.”

 

DLI is implementing programmatic changes to the UI system to allow claims filed within the new eligibility requirements under the new stimulus package, or CARES Act. Additional claimant guidance on the package, and what it means for Montanans filing for UI can be found here.

 

When guidance has been received, funds made available and programming changes are complete, and DLI will be able to process the applications, an announcement will be made by press release, on dli.mt.gov, and social media.

 

In the meantime, laid-off workers should apply for benefits at MontanaWorks.gov, even if they are not sure they qualify. A tutorial on how users can apply for benefits on MontanaWorks is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEYaWXATES4&t=19s. New or enhanced payments will be backdated as provided under the act.

 

DLI wants to remind the public that the week a person becomes unemployed, that person should file an application for unemployment benefits. Individuals should read the frequently asked questions and watch the instructional videos before they apply at MontanaWorks.gov.

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