The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development has launched a chat feature on its website to answer customers’ unemployment questions. But you won’t get answers from a person, instead, you will receive a response from a chatbot.
The feature simulates a human text response to provide answers to the 20 most frequently asked questions related to unemployment benefits. The chatbot was developed in partnership with the New Jersey Office of Innovation and uses Google technology.
“We are investigating every resource we can add to assist our customers at this time of unprecedented unemployment claims,” said New Jersey Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo. “Many who are calling or emailing can find the answers to their questions on our website. This new feature points them in the right direction to find the answer quickly.”
One goal of the new chat feature is to improve customer service. Another goal is to direct customers to self-service features whenever possible. In its first three days of operation, there were 50,000 interactions with the chat feature. Officials said the chatbot frees up time for agents to focus on claims that need an intervention.
Officials sad many of the inquiries the department receives every day are for general information, including:
- Am I eligible for benefits?
- How do I reset my pin?
- How do I check my claim status?
- What do I do to qualify for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)?, or
- How do I certify for weekly benefits?
Officials warned that residents should not enter claim-specific information into the chatbot because there is not a live agent on the other end.
Many residents have complained that they still have not received benefits, that they were denied benefits, or that the New Jersey Department of Labor’s online portal keeps crashing or freezing.
Officials said the department has taken various steps to try to respond to more residents, including designating hundreds of employees as essential, training them, and temporarily reassigned them to work for the unemployment insurance division; ordering hundreds of new laptops so more employees who must remain home for health reasons can work remotely; improving the computer system’s capacity to allow it to accept thousands of claims per hour; adding more capacity to be able to process regular unemployment payments, along with the additional $600 supplement and PUA claims. The department is also hiring more than 130 new full-time staff members and bringing dozens of retirees back to work.
Gov. Phil Murphy has said any resident who is eligible for unemployment will receive every penny that they qualify for. When asked about the backlog, he has repeatedly said the department is dealing with a record number unemployment claims. He has asked people to be patient, but some people have now gone two months without receiving a paycheck.
For more information or to use this new tool, visit Myunemployment.nj.gov.