Cooper Replaces Unemployment Head As NC Struggles to Process Unemployment Claims in Mandated Recession

Gov. Cooper named former Democrat lawmaker and bureaucrat Pryor Gibson to serve as new DES head.

RALEIGH – What do you do, as governor, when you’ve mandated a recession and over a million citizens are losing jobs and clamoring for unemployment benefits, but the painfully inefficient bureaucracy is sending in the worst performance in the entire country as far as processing and paying benefits?  Well, that depends on whether or not you want the problems and processes actually fixed, or if you simply want a scapegoat to deflect attention and blame.

Governor Roy Cooper seems to have chosen the latter, replacing one career government employee with the Division of Employment Security (DES) with a backslapping former Dem lawmaker who advised Democrat Governor Beverly Perdue and sports no obvious ability or track record to break the logjam at DES.

From Raleigh News & Observer:

“[…] Cooper didn’t say why the old boss, Lockhart Taylor, moved to a different job in state government “with separate duties and responsibilities.”

But the move comes after numerous complaints about long waits that newly unemployed people having been facing — waits to get through to the office on the phone, or to get benefits at all.

Replacing Taylor as assistant secretary for the Division of Employment Security will be Pryor Gibson, a former state lawmaker and advisor to former Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue.

[…] Last week, Taylor told state lawmakers that the unemployment office got only 24 hours of advance notice from Cooper in March before the governor ordered bars and restaurants to mostly shut down, which then led to historic levels of unemployment.

Rep. Julia Howard, a Davie County Republican who chairs the legislature’s oversight committee on unemployment insurance, questioned the move Wednesday.

“It’s surprising that we would change right now in the middle of the stream,” she said. “I guess somebody has to take the fall.”

Howard said Taylor had been doing “a phenomenal job for the last three months,” and she worries a new leader will take time to learn the agency’s operations. […]”

Lockhart Taylor also served in DES during the McCrory administration, assisting then Secretary Dale Folwell in implementing reforms to pay down unemployment insurance debts to the federal government and improve compliance with UI programs. The record-shattering pace and severity of this mandated recession, and a swirl of fluid rule changes, ran smack into the limits of outdated technologies, poor customer service, and cumbersome bureaucracy.

Pryor Gibson also worked for the Department of Commerce during the McCrory administration, a holdover from the Perdue administration with a knack for hanging around. Cooper has again elevated him, but changing the man in charge does little, if anything, to fix this problems described above. While the backlog of claims will eventually be worked through, but, when all is said and done, the slow and frustrating bureaucracy of the unemployment system will remain basically the same.

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