Lotter said the agency is merely being cautious with the approach of an early-December deadline when thousands of Indiana residents could see their unemployment benefits end after exhausting the maximum 99 weeks provided through multiple federal extension periods.
"Given the upcoming expiration of the federal extensions and the increased stress on some of the unemployed, we thought added security would provide an extra level of protection for our employees and clients," he said.
Some offices have had guards for nearly two years but those guards were hired on a regional basis, meaning some offices had armed guards while others did not, Lotter said.
The cost of the armed guards varies dramatically around the state. Lotter said the agency is trying to be more consistent and that it plans to employ armed guards in all 36 offices where unemployment insurance benefits are handled.
The overall cost for the security is $1 million, paid for with federal funds designated for administration of the unemployment system, Lotter said.
Other agency offices that provide job training or are not full-service branches will continue to have unarmed guards.
Lotter said state employees in the affected offices have also recently gone through stress-management training in which they learn how to respond appropriately to angry clients.
"This is a stressful time for people in the economy," he said. "That's why we're not only taking this step (of hiring guards), but we're also increasing our training for our staff to be able to help people as they're trying to cope with these changes."
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