Unemployed turn to social media for answers, impossible to get through to live person at Unemployment office

Frustrated and desperate, for many unemployed the only chance of getting an answer lays in Social Media

When Jacob H. from San Jose, California, had a problem with his unemployment claim, he did what anyone would do in that case, he picked up the phone and tried calling California's Employment Development Department (EDD), which is responsible for unemployment benefits. Soon he would find out what many others have realized: It is virtually impossible to get through to talk to a live representative.

This is the case in all states. With the unemployment rate reaching upwards of 15% during the Coronavirus pandemic, the unemployment call centers find themselves overloaded and understaffed; All this at a time when the unemployed need help the most. Workers who have been out of work for weeks and who desperately need the unemployment benefits to make ends meet. Many have reported not doing anything else all day for weeks other than trying to call and reach someone at the unemployment agencies. It is akin to a full-time job. But despite that, it seems like it's easier to win the lottery than to get through to a live person on the phone. Some people we talked to have even pooled all their family members' cellphones, dialing the unemployment number simultaneously on multiple phones, to try and better their odds.

As such, many have turned to social media looking for answers. The r/Unemployment community on the popular website Reddit.com gets hundreds of questions posted every day, from people trying to get advice on how to solve their particular unemployment issue. Others reply and try to help.

Another channel people turn to for help is the Unemployment Discord, a giant chat room where people seek advice and help in real time chat from others who have been through the same situation. Hundreds of people have posted questions across the various chat rooms while others who have been through similar situations attempt to assist.

And while the various social media websites and chatrooms can be helpful, they are mostly useful for general questions, and in many cases are no substitute for help from official state customer service representatives; Such as when a claimant wants to correct details on his unemployment claim or find out why the promised benefits never reached his bank account.

Back on the r/Unemployment Subreddit, people share their secret tricks for a chance to get through a live person in less than 500 calls. One user suggested "Call the 5616 number from 8-12 PM, if you get through to the actual menu press 1 for English then at the prompts press 6 for the first, 5 for the second, 1 for the third, then 4 for the 4th prompt. Do not input the SSN when asked. It will ask 3 times then forward you to either a message saying "due to too many callers" which is just a rejection message or it may say "all of our representatives..." which means you got through". Another user suggests "call the 2511# press 1 wait a sec then hit 0 if it says ‘thank you’, hang up and call back, eventually you will hear ‘all of our operators are currently busy’ you’re on hold. Just stay on the line. " While we haven't tried those tips, we feel like getting you should be able to reach a live person normally rather than having to use what feels like intricate video-game cheat codes...

Many unemployment agencies are just now starting to hire additional customer service reps, but it takes time to onboard and train them, and we hope it's not too little and too late for those families who have lost their income and have to depend on the unemployment benefits.

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