Bill McCamley stepped down Friday as Cabinet Secretary of the State Department of Workforce Solutions, the oft-criticized agency tasked with absorbing the tsunami of unemployment claims filed during the coronavirus pandemic. His abrupt departure comes after a year filled with stinging criticism over Workforce Solutions’ seeming inability to deal with the volume of requests from out-of-work New Mexicans struggling to gain access to unemployment benefits.
No reason was given for McCamley’s departure. McCamley led a department that has wrangled for more than a year with record levels of unemployment claims. More than 100,000 New Mexicans are receiving weekly jobless benefits.
As the coronavirus swept through the state in March 2020, new weekly claims for benefits statewide quickly rose to a peak of 18,000 from the typical 600 to 1,000 per week.
Since June, there have been between 2,000 and 5,000 weekly initial claims for jobless benefits, taxing a system designed for fewer than 1,000.
Unemployed workers in the state have had to wrestle with Workforce Solutions’ overwhelmed online and phone systems, sometimes calling dozens of times before receiving an answer. Often enough, the jobless were locked out of their Workforce Solutions accounts, triggering a storm of complaints. The department has offered little explanation for the frustrations other than to note the unprecedented volume of requests.
McCamley oversaw an overhaul of the department’s processing system to handle the vastly increased volume of applications for benefits through the state’s unemployment insurance program.
It also has had to set up an entirely new system to handle claims through the federal government’s Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for the self-employed, contractors and gig workers. The state’s $465 million Workforce Force Unemployment Trust fund was exhausted by September, and New Mexico has had to rely on federal funds since then to pay unemployment benefits.
In a Facebook post, McCamley thanked the governor “for the honor of serving in this role.” He also thanked his staff, calling it an “absolute honor” to serve alongside them.
“To everyone else in New Mexico, please be kind to your fellow humans,” he wrote. “In life we are all in this together. We all do better when we treat each other with patience, respect, and compassion. Let’s make sure we keep doing that.”
From article in Santa Fe New Mexican April 16, 2021
By Daniel J. Chacón, firstname.lastname@example.org