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Governor Rell Authorizes Additional Resources to Labor Department for Swift Distribution of Unemployment Aid

For immediate release
December 1, 2008
CONTACT: Chris Cooper, 860-250-3860
christopher.cooper@ct.gov


Governor M. Jodi Rell today announced that she has directed the state Department of Labor (DOL) to prepare a plan for handling the escalating number of unemployment claims, along with the swift and efficient distribution of additional unemployment assistance coming to the state.

Congress on November 20 passed - and President Bush the next day signed - the Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2008, which extends federal unemployment compensation for people whose benefits have expired. The Act provides states with an additional seven weeks of extended benefits; in states where the unemployment rate is 6.0 percent or higher another 13 weeks will be allowed, for a total of 20 weeks. In Connecticut, the unemployment rate is currently 6.5 percent.

"Our state has been battered by the economic storm that has washed over Wall Street and the rest of the nation's financial markets," Governor Rell said. "No state is immune from this downturn. Although we have taken - and are taking - a number of steps to help keep and grow jobs in our state it is vital that we continue to support the families that are looking for work right now.

"The job-hunting process is hard enough in its own right without having to struggle through a tangle of red tape to get unemployment assistance," the Governor said. "This plan will put extra people on the phone and extra resources at the Department of Labor to ensure that the people in our state who need this aid will get it with a minimum of hassles and headaches."

The federal legislation not only pays for the benefits themselves but includes additional money for states to use in expediting the handling of unemployment insurance (UI) claims. Under the DOL plan, the agency is reopening its Emergency Unemployment Compensation Resource Center, a comprehensive central office with 10 telephone lines dedicated to responding to inquiries regarding the newest extension program. The agency is also approving overtime for staff members throughout its UI division to speed all areas of response, including processing, approvals, printing and mailroom work.

DOL is also recalling 15 recent retirees on a temporary basis, adding their experience to the knowledge base of available staff, and bringing in trained volunteer staff to assist in responding to UI inquiries. Additional DOL employees have also volunteered to work with the UI division on a temporary basis.

According to the Governor, those who are already collecting the initial 13 weeks of extended federal benefits approved by Congress this past summer will automatically continue to receive the newest extension if they have not yet found employment.

Those who have exhausted the 13 weeks of the extended benefits and are no longer collecting but and have not yet found employment will receive a letter of instruction in the mail. DOL is currently identifying these individuals and will soon be mailing these letters.


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