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Wait times for unemployment claims down 60%

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(The Center Square) — Complaining about the inefficiencies of Pennsylvania’s state agencies has become a favored pastime of residents, but in some places, wait times have been dramatically reduced.

The Shapiro administration announced that call wait times for unemployment compensation claims have dropped by 60% since January 2023, with the average wait now running 20 minutes.

The wait time frustrations have been fixed by the Department of Labor & Industry running a hiring spree — almost 400 staffers have been hired to answer the phones.

“The day before Thanksgiving in 2022, claimants averaged 20 attempts to reach UC by phone. In 2023, on that same day, it took only one attempt for most claimants to reach a UC staffer by phone. That’s incredible progress in one year, thanks to the commitment of the UC team and a bipartisan budget that enabled us to hire more intake interviewers,” L&I Secretary Nancy Walker said in a press release. “I’m thrilled that wait times are down to about 20 minutes, but we’re not stopping there. With proper funding, we can continue making progress to deliver for our communities and meet the customer-service expectations of Pennsylvanians who depend on us during times of hardship.”

Walker’s administration also bragged that “most emails” to unemployment compensation staff get answered within 24 hours.

In his budget proposal, Shapiro wants a $68 million authorization for the Service Improvement and Infrastructure Fund to maintain staffing levels. If it’s not authorized, the department warned, its expenses will outpace revenue.

Shapiro has emphasized his efforts to reduce wait times across government and move “at the speed of business.” Last November, the Department of Human Services announced it had cleared a backlog of 35,000 Medicaid applications. The Department of Environmental Protection’s permitting backlog has also been reduced by 30%, officials noted, which was praised by the Wall Street Journal.