Ten weeks after the state shifted to a new, online-only system for filing unemployment claims, some jobless Berkshire residents are still encountering major difficulties seeking benefits.

When attempting to call representatives at the state's Division of Unemployment Assistance in Boston, a few have endured waits of up to several hours only to be disconnected. Delays of several months or more have been experienced by some receiving checks.

"The frustration level is extremely high," said state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, who co-authored a letter of complaint from the Berkshire state legislative delegation that was sent to Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Joanne Goldstein and DUA Director Michelle Amante.

"There have been many problems caused by this conversion," said John Barrett III, director of the BerkshireWorks Career Center at 160 North St. "Some have raised havoc in the lives of people who've lost their jobs."

"Some people have gone eight or nine weeks without a check, some even longer, and those people are quite desperate," he added. "They come to us saying they can't pay their mortgage or rent, or they have medical issues. We've had to do some counseling with people who are emotionally distraught. We're seeing the human side of this, and most of them are friends and neighbors."


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