Benefit delays attributed to claims scrutiny

The Associated Press

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RALEIGH — North Carolina’s unemployment office says it’s working quickly but carefully to eliminate a backlog of initial benefit requests that grew recently as the agency took a new approach on deciding whether someone qualifies for help.

Division of Employment Services chief Dale Folwell told lawmakers Wednesday he’s hoping to eliminate a backlog of 12,000 unresolved benefit applications by the end of next month. The backlog is roughly 50 percent higher compared with last summer.

Folwell says more initial claims are being delayed beyond the usual 21-day window because agency workers are talking to both employers and their ex-employees to confirm benefits are justified. The effort is designed to reduce fraud and the state’s high percentage of inaccurate payments.

One House member told Folwell some people have waited months for payments.