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Texas Uses Chatbots to Manage Uptick in Unemployment Calls

The Texas Workforce Commission launched an online, automated virtual assistant to help manage the surge in unemployment benefit claims. The chatbot has helped streamline the process, though the demand remains unprecedented.

by Jacob Dick, Beaumont Enterprise / April 2, 2020
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(TNS) — The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) has created an online virtual assistant to clear the growing backlog of unemployment claims.

“Larry the Chat Bot” is an automated program found at the frontpage of twc.texas.gov that allows people making unemployment benefit claims to enter their information in the chat instead of waiting for assistance on the phone.

TWC has reported record call volumes over the past week and a half, shattering the previous crisis record of around 60,000 a day. Calls during the COVID-19 crisis has risen to the millions after the third week of March, prompting the agency to hire new workers and add hundreds of new lines.

“Our top priority is to eliminate the backlog, get Texans registered and on the path to getting the benefits they need,” Ed Serna, TWC executive director, said. “We know people are hurting, and many are facing an uncertain future. A lot of Texans are applying for benefits for the very first time. That can be hard, and even though we’ve greatly streamlined the process, the sheer weight of the demand right now is unprecedented.”

TWC hopes the program can answer most questions claimants may be calling the hot-line about, relieving the pressure on the website and call centers.

The chat bot “Larry” is named for former TWC Executive Director Larry Temple, who passed away in 2019.

©2020 the Beaumont Enterprise (Beaumont, Texas) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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