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Luetkemeyer calls for temporary staff increase at Labor amid unemployment surge


State Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer is calling on Missouri’s Department of Labor to increase staffing as more people are filing for unemployment during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Applicants have experienced difficulties with their filings and with receiving updates on their claims, Luetkemeyer said in a letter to Labor Director Anna Hui. Specifically, Luetkemeyer called for more temporary employees to aid in processing claims. 

“As you know, the Department of Labor is receiving an unprecedented number of unemployment claims as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Luetkemeyer, a Republican who represents Platte and Buchanan counties, said. “My office is receiving a high volume of inquiries from constituents attempting to navigate the unemployment process for the first time in their lives. Unfortunately, these constituents are unable to contact the department directly due to the number of Missourians calling to file claims. Additionally, website functionality issues have plagued those attempting to apply for benefits online.”

“In this unprecedented time, people are looking for leadership from their government,” Luetkemeyer continued. “In no area is this more true than in making sure people timely receive their unemployment income to support their families in the midst of a government-mandated shutdown of the economy. For these reasons, I implore you to temporarily increase the department’s staff, particularly in the customer service and IT areas, to help ease the burden on Missourians seeking unemployment benefits.”

Unemployment filings in Missouri have skyrocketed in the past month as businesses shutter due to quarantine and social distancing mandates, leaving many workers unemployed or furloughed. 

The Department of Labor reported 101,722 initial unemployment filings in Missouri last week, continuing a trend of unprecedented high filing numbers in the past month as businesses have closed in many nonessential industries across the state. 

In an email to The Missouri Times, a Department of Labor spokesperson said the Division of Employment Security (DES) has pulled staff from across “all program areas within the department” to assist with the volume of callers and claims. 

“Additionally we are utilizing staff from other state agencies and have hired and will continue to hire temporary workers,” the spokesperson said. 

DES began rolling out its $600 Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) weekly payments on Monday. Those eligible should begin seeing these stimulus payments this week.

So far, 5,111 Missourians have tested positive for COVID-19, and 152 people have died.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For up-to-date information on coronavirus, check with the CDC and DHSS.