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Phoenix Jobless Benefits Call Center Closing – It Is Not What You Think

January 28th, 2013

Arizona Republic Reprint

By Josh Brodesky
Fri Jan 25, 2013 5:06 PM

The state Department of Economic Security has closed its Phoenix call center for unemployment insurance, citing cuts in federal funding as fewer people claim benefits.

Although DES officials say it reflects an improving Arizona economy, the closure of the Phoenix call center means the loss of 29 full-time positions. The agency is working to find new positions for the former call-center employees.

A call center in Tucson will remain open.

Although businesses contributed to the unemployment-insurance fund, administration of the Arizona Unemployment Insurance program is 100 percent federally funded. That funding is largely based on how many people are claiming benefits. More than 200,000 people claimed benefits in 2010, but that number dropped to less than 75,000 this month.

“The job market in Arizona is improving, and that naturally leads to a decline in the number of people who are receiving unemployment benefits,” said Mark Darmer, deputy assistant director for employment and rehabilitation services at DES.

Arizona’s unemployment rate was 7.9 percent in December. It was well above 10percent for much of 2010.

Darmer said people exhausting their unemployment benefits also factored into the reduction of claims being filed.

The agency said declining federal funding may lead to similar cuts in at least 21 other states.

The call-center closure comes just before DES moves to an electronic filing system for all new unemployment-insurance claims. Beginning Feb. 1, any person filing a new unemployment-insurance claim will have to do so online at www.azui.com. The agency said about 80 percent of all people file their claims electronically.

That means the change should affect only about 1,000 to 2,000 people a week, Darmer said.

He said county-run One-Stop job centers across the state can help people with their online applications as well as provide training and workforce-development opportunities.

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