LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Weeks after coronavirus shutdowns began, out of work residents remain desperate to collect unemployment and get through to the state’s Employment Development Department.
“It got to a point where I was calling no joke two to three thousand times a day. Using two phones, even utilizing my children and putting them on one phone and having them hit redial…it was just so exhausting,” said Rachel Raasch who is unemployed.
Faced with a record number of unemployment claims — 2.7 million in California over a four-week period — the EDD expanded its phone service hours from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week and added more than 1,000 employees to its call center.
Raasch was finally able to get someone from EDD on the phone, on their new number that is staffed 12 hours a day, seven days a week, but she did not necessarily get the help she was looking for.
“They have limited information. I’ve had someone say I need to look at my handbook. I’ve had people say I don’t know how to do this, they brought me in from another department,” Raasch said.
EDD admitted that those who answer on their new number are only able to assist with technical help, password resetting, UI Online questions, and general information.
Only the department’s old number, which is only open four hours a day, is able to file claims and payment information.
“What they need to do is expand the hours of the people who actually know how to file claims. Why are they closed at noon, when you have all this going on,” Raasch asked.
Kevin Rafferty, an out of work visual effects supervisor, was struggling to get his unemployment extended 12 weeks under the CARES Act.
As of Monday, he still hadn’t received a check. When he finally got through to EDD, he was told the person on the phone couldn’t help with what he needed.
“This person told me that he can’t help me with that. I have to get a tech support specialist. And to make things worse he couldn’t forward me to him or her,” said Rafferty.
When Pat Polk wasn’t able to get anyone on the phone, she started sending emails.
“I’ve sent four emails, and the only message I got was ‘Your message has been submitted and due to high demand we ask for your patience,'” Polk said.
EDD said it has processed more than 3.5 million claims and distributed $4.5 billion in benefits since March 15.
In a statement, an EDD spokesperson wrote:
“The demand for benefits is far beyond anything we’ve ever seen even in the worst of recessions and we’re drawing on all resources possible to process and provide payments to so many of our neighbors in need.”