WILTON — The state will open a temporary call center at Maine Department of Labor’s Wilton Career Center and hire 45 people to staff it to help respond to calls related to the expansion of Medicaid/MaineCare.

The Department of Health and Human Services will operate the call center for six months as the expansion of health coverage continues to ramp up, with an option to make the jobs permanent if the need continues, according to a DHHS press release.

Department of Health & Human Services will open a temporary call center at the CareerCenter in Wilton. Sun Journal file photo

The center will be funded through the current DHHS budget.

“Town of Wilton officials are pleased that DHHS will open a temporary call center at the CareerCenter in Wilton and that Barclay employees will have the opportunity to apply for these jobs,” Town Manager Rhonda Irish said in an email. “The Department of Labor Rapid Response team has provided exceptional support to Barclay’s employees and we are hopeful that the new DHHS Call Center will meet the employment requirements of some of these displaced workers. We are pleased by the support shown by the various state departments for these employees”.

Gov. Janet Mills signed an executive order on Jan. 3 to expand MaineCare. More than 70,000 Mainers will be eligible for MaineCare health insurance under the expansion, according to the Portland Press Herald. Maine voters approved the expansion in 2017.

DHHS will hold a job fair for these positions from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday at the Barclays facility on Weld Road/Route 156 in Wilton.

DHHS will begin training for the 45 jobs beginning April 1. The Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services will conduct outreach about this upcoming employment opportunity to notify potential employees, including those losing their jobs at Barclaycard call center in Wilton. Barclays announced in January that it would close its Wilton call center, with plans to lay off 227 workers on March 31.

The center will allow Maine people to get helpful information quicker and streamline the enrollment experience, according to the release. Those who call the Office for Family Independence’s Customer Service Center at 1-855-797-4357 with questions about Department programs, including expansion, will be directed to this new call center to learn more and receive initial help signing up, if eligible. Callers who are prepared to enroll will then be directed to eligibility specialists to complete the process.

“The impending closure of the Barclays call center in Wilton is a blow to the people of western Maine,” Governor Janet Mills said in the release. “When it became clear that more capacity would be needed to respond to calls about MaineCare expansion, my Administration decided to meet that need by opening a call center in Wilton at a facility already used by the state. This new call center will allow us to enroll people in MaineCare and offer temporary employment to people in western Maine at the same time, including some of those who are losing their jobs at Barclays at the end of this month.”

“Our phones have been ringing off the hook with people eager to learn about the Medicaid expansion,” DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said in the release. “This call center will help us be more responsive to people who have been waiting for health care coverage.”

The Department of Labor’s Rapid Response team has been on site at Barclays in Wilton since early January, Laura Fortman, commissioner of the Department of Labor, said. “We are thrilled that they and others have this new employment opportunity to help implement such an important health care program for our state.”

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