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NMDWS Addresses Employer Accounts, Federal Extensions, Claims Processing, and Access Information

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 24, 2013 

Contact: Joy Forehand
Office: (505) 841-8450
Media Inquiries: (505) 250-3926

NMDWS Addresses Employer Accounts, Federal Extensions, Claims Processing, and Access Information 

(Albuquerque, NM) - The New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions (NMDWS) today reported that it has paid out nearly $17 million in Unemployment Insurance (UI) claims, processed over 75,000 weekly certifications for benefits, and enabled over 15,500 employers and third party administrators (TPAs) to electronically file wage reports since it launched a new integrated UI tax and claims system on January 6, 2013.

For the first time, employers have a single repository of all UI business functions, including both tax and claims activity. This self-service functionality is speeding up the processing of new registrations and appeals, and allowing employers to electronically file wage reports and respond to notices of claim filings. In the past, paper filing has cost NMDWS significant resources and delayed important wage data from being entered into the UI system. Since the launch of the new system, over 15,500 employers and TPAs have filed wage reports, and nearly $7.3 million has been collected from employers for fourth quarter contributions. 

 While state officials are proud of the historic new system’s success in providing employers with first time access to a UI system and getting families the unemployment benefits to which they are entitled, they are doing everything they can to address and minimize the frustration of those who have inundated the NMDWS Operations Center with tens of thousands of calls. 

Despite a more than doubling of the number of customer service agents in the NMDWS Operations Center, callers have faced unusually long delays for three main reasons:

  1. Congress’ recent extension of the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program which impacted claim filing for approximately 7,000 New Mexicans;
  2. new data integrity procedures require more information be gathered when someone applies for benefits in order to reduce New Mexico’s rate of UI fraud and overpayments and adjudicate issues promptly; and
  3. new security standards require UI claimants to log in to the state’s New Mexico Workforce Connection Online System (www.jobs.state.nm.us) before they access the UI system to apply for benefits. 


Federal Extension Eligibility

On January 2, President Obama signed legislation which extended the federal EUC program through December 31,2013. Nearly one-third of the callers to the NMDWS Operations Center are from the thousands of New Mexicans who have been impacted by this extension. Federal rules require that EUC claimants first be deemed ineligible for standard UI benefits before they can request payment under the new federal extension. This process strengthens the integrity of UI payments and reduces the chances that payments will be made to people who are no longer eligible.

In the past 48 hours, NMDWS has been able to clear large volumes of claims and provide account access to everyone who meets the federal EUC guidelines. A data fix freed up almost 7,000 weeks of benefits for over 3,100 claimants. Due to the complexity of the issues on their claims, these individuals have been unable to certify for one to three weeks. Barring any additional eligibility issues, the fix frees up these weeks and then results in payment. Direct communication was sent out to these specific individuals to let them know that they can log in to the system (www.job.state.nm.us) or contact customer service at 1-877-664-6984 to certify for previous backdated weeks.

Initial Claims Processing and Improved Program Integrity

In the past, UI claimants could submit a short application and NMDWS would mail them a follow-up fact-finding questionnaire, which would need to be completed by the claimant, returned by mail, and routed for adjudication processing. While the initial application could take 20 minutes, collection and processing of additional information could take weeks. Today, new data integrity procedures and “intelligent logic” gather more information on the online standard application, collecting online the fact-finding request that used to be mailed to the claimant.   Completed fact-finding responses are then routed electronically for adjudication, helping prevent and detect fraud and overpayments.

Collection of the fact-finding information initially can take longer, depending on the type of issues identified, but will reduce the claim processing cycle in the long run and enhance the integrity of the UI Benefits system.  For example, if a claimant is not eligible, has exhausted his claim, or has an issue that is preventing payment, he/she cannot request payment. The claimant must clear the issue or reapply and be determined eligible for benefits to receive a link to request payment.  In the old system, claimants could request payment (certify weekly) no matter their claim status. 

These new changes are not only intentional, they are imperative if New Mexico is to preserve the integrity of the UI program for those who are eligible.  While this new process creates more issues for NMDWS staff to review, it also provides a higher level of integrity in the payment of UI claims. 

Passwords and Job Registration

To meet the job registration requirement of the UI program, UI claimants must log in to the New Mexico Workforce Connection Online System (www.jobs.state.nm.us) before they can access the UI system, which is a completely separate application. Individuals must create and maintain and usernames and passwords for both systems. Although there has been confusion, the department has noticed significant improvements and access through both systems week over week.  It is a requirement for UI eligibility to register with the New Mexico Workforce Connection; and, it is the goal of the agency to provide citizens with full access to employers and open positions in New Mexico.

In addition, the new UI system – for the first time – offers industry-standard Internet security measures; including some that require all users to have a user ID and secure password. Despite online password reset functionality, some people are forgetting their passwords and need to call a NMDWS representative in order to have them reset. NMDWS is training additional staff to assist folks with password issues to quickly resolve basic access questions and instruct people on the importance of retaining system access credentials.

Accessing the Unemployment Insurance System

Individuals can access Unemployment Insurance two ways: via the online system (www.jobs.state.nm.us) and the 1-877-664-6984 toll-free number. The online system is available Sunday-Friday 6 a.m.-6 p.m. The certification option on the toll-free number is available Monday-Friday 24 hours/day. Customer service in the UI Operations Center is available Monday-Friday 8a.m.-4:30 p.m.

There are a variety of ways in which employers can contact the department for assistance with activating their account, filing their quarterly wage reports, and other UI-related questions. For the first time, the 1-877-664-6984 toll-free number has an “employer option.” The Employer Customer Service Line is also available via (505) 841-8576. Due to the high call volumes, employers can submit UI tax-related questions to uitax.support@state.nm.us. Helpful tips, information about wage reporting file formats, and system demos are available on the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions’ website at www.dws.state.nm.us.

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