COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Delayed deposits, frozen accounts and long wait times over the phone. Those were some of the complaints central Ohioans made to Better Call 4 just a few months ago about the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
I reached out to the department at the end of July and was told the issues were driven by “an increased number of attempts to fraudulently access the state’s unemployment system.”
There was a high volume of calls, creating long wait times and “as a precaution,” thousands of accounts with “suspicious activity” were locked, suspending payments, until the issue was fixed.
But less than a month after that, more complaints came in. People cited weeks without payments and hold times of two hours or more.
I reached out to ODJFS once again, and received this message from a representative:
“I double checked and there have not been any recent, extended issues with our unemployment portal. We did have a situation near the end of July in which an influx of attempted fraud caused us to ‘lock down’ around 25,000 claimant accounts. This blocked these individuals from accessing their account online and caused very long waits on the phone to restore those accounts to their rightful owners. We immediately fixed that and about a week later put into place a way for impacted claimants to that online. That was widely reported on.
We did see an unusually high number of initial claims over the course of the summer, which added to our workload, and could result in longer wait times for decisions. However, our continuing claims have remained in line with what we would expect for this time of year.
We encourage individuals to apply on-line, as it is the quickest and easiest way to apply. However, they can apply over the phone. Our average speed to answer has been around 90 minutes. We do offer a callback option. It is also important to point out that once an application is made it can take several weeks or more to process, as [they] generally require us to collect additional information from the claimant and their former employer.
Here are some tips to help expedite the process.
- Review the information at unemployment.ohio.gov to better understand the process and the documentation necessary to apply prior to starting the process
- Be prepared to create an OH|ID at ohid.ohio.gov
- Apply online by going to unemployment.ohio.gov
- If you prefer to apply by phone, you can do so at 877-644-6562
- Be sure to have all required information readily available.
- Our hours are 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Call early.
- Avoid calling on Mondays and Tuesdays
- Respond promptly to requests for additional information”
Because so many residents reached out to Better Call 4 with complaints about the department, I also contacted the Office of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, to see if these issues are on his radar. The office sent me this message:
“Governor DeWine has full confidence in Director Damschroder. We have been briefed on changes ODJFS has made regarding its processes and the reduced wait times for initial applications. The primary driver of the issue remains the higher volume of initial claims, with Fraudulent Claims remaining a high driver of the volume.”