Friday, 23 March 2018 09:58

Groups questions Maine Department of Labors handling of unemployment compensation issues Featured

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AUGUSTA (WGME) - A Maine lawmaker is asking for an investigation into the Maine Department of Labor.

After what he calls the botched rollout of a new unemployment filing system and allegations of misconduct.


In a five-page memo released, the Labor Commissioner said the rollout of the new system was rocky, but he denies any wrongdoing. Some lawmakers say an independent investigation is needed to help separate fact from fiction.


"It's just a nightmare it really is." Back in December, Gloria Pressey told us she had gone weeks without benefits. She said, "You don't know if you're going to be able to get food let alone pay your rent or anything else."


One of many Mainers struggling to use the state's new online unemployment system, Re-Employ-Maine.


"We dont know how many claimants tried to get through to the system," said Representative Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford. "We're having issues, tried to get a hold of someone on the phones and were unable to file a claim at all."


Legislators like Representative Ryan Fecteau of Biddeford have been flooded with calls from constituents. As chair of the labor committee, he's now calling for an investigation by the office of program evaluation and government accountability, also known as OPEGA.


"We need to know the truth." In a letter requesting the inquiry, Fecteau said the system was launched before it was ready, with more than 200 defects later identified. He also points to allegations of misconduct made by whistleblowers, some shared with Senator Shenna Bellows, D-Manchester.


She said a confidential memo provided by a former employee alleges senior managers destroyed documents from claimants requesting help. "So clearly something is going on something is clearly wrong," said Senator Bellows.


CBS 13 requested an on-camera interview with the Department of Labor, but it was denied.


In a memo to lawmakers, Commissioner John Butera writes, "We should be working toward the next phase of development, instead, we have diverted a substantial amount of resources and energy refuting unsubstantiated allegations generated by legislators and the media."


The Government Oversight Committee meets Friday morning and will decide whether to have OPEGA investigate this issue.