North Carolina is working to eliminate a backlog of unemployment insurance claims. The state says the claims initially backed up as it started putting a greater emphasis on double-checking them.
The backlog has built up in cases where laid off employees and their employers disagree about why they lost their jobs.
At the end of February, there were 12,800 cases left. Some people have been waiting for about two months.
But in a legislative committee meeting Wednesday, Assistant Secretary of Commerce Dale Folwell said there's a good reason for the slowdown – the state has revamped its quality control policies.
"This agency has been in a mode of paying and chasing for decades," he said.
It used to be: let's just pay the claim, and if it's wrong, we'll chase the money down later.
That approach led North Carolina to have the worst rating in the country for checking claims, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
In the last year, Folwell said his department has been putting more time and effort into making sure the claims deserve to be paid. And it's working, according to the Department of Labor. North Carolina's rating has more than doubled in the past year.
Also, Folwell emphasized that most claims in which the former employee and employer agree are still getting paid in a timely manner.
"Over 80 percent of the people who file a claim with our agency when no one throws a flag on the field (are) getting paid within the first 20 days," he said.
North Carolina is aiming to roughly clear the backlog by the end of the month.
But Folwell said he'll need some help from the weather. Anytime schools are delayed or closed in Wake County, he said his department loses 20 percent of its production. That's because some employees have to stay home with their kids or can't get to work.