JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri officials want to continue having a private company handle calls about jobless benefits in the state even though the unemployment rate has returned to pre-pandemic levels.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations is asking companies to bid on a contract to run a call center that would help officials process unemployment claims and employ up to 150 people.
A California company called Protiviti has been handling those duties since October 2020, and it has been paid $18 million under a contract to help the state after the unemployment rate soared during the pandemic. That company has employed as many as 300 people at times while handling those inquiries.
The unemployment rate reached as high as 12.5% in April 2020. Currently, it is down to 3.7%, which is equal to the rate in March 2020 before the pandemic began.
Labor Department spokeswoman Maura Browning said the agency continues to deal with a large number of unemployment benefits appeals even though the jobless rate is lower.