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Jobless deluge EDD with questions, crash phone service

December 2, 2010 | 11:03 am

Phone As unemployment benefits for thousands of Californians start to expire, the jobless are deluging the Employment Development Department with phone calls, essentially crashing the phone service.

Calls to the California EDD support number are met with a message that the department is receiving more calls than it can answer. Some calls are then disconnected. 

Jeremiah Johnson, 25, called the EDD support line 236 times on Wednesday. He was trying to reach someone at EDD to ask why he hadn't been transfered to a separate benefits program, as a counselor told him he would be. His extensions ran out last week.

None of his 236 calls got a response, so the Santa Ana resident drove to a nearby EDD WorkSource Center for help. The representative there told him to call the EDD support number, he said.

"This is one of the most outrageously frustrating things I have ever come across in my entire life," said Johnson, who is looking for a job in database management in the education field. "We're being put into a loop."

EDD spokeswoman Loree Levy said that every time unemployment benefits run out, the agency is flooded with customer calls.

"In many cases, they want to know when extensions will be available again and that's something the EDD simply cannot answer," she said. "The continuing availability of extension benefits is up to the U.S. Congress to decide and states to implement."

The EDD is encouraging customers to follow it on Twitter so they can follow any updates about extensions. The department's website is also frequently updated, Levy said. Finally, Levy advised customers to e-mail the EDD on the Contact EDD feature on the website. The department will get back to customers within three days, she said. "We really would like [customers] to avoid the frustration of jammed phone lines," she said.

"We fully understand the anxiety that can be created when people may encounter an end to their available benefits much sooner than they had anticipated," she said.

Johnson said that anxiety is adding to the frustration of his unemployment. He's been out of work since May, and says that since his checks have expired, he'll be behind on his rent, car payments and other bills.

"I've been looking for work but it's really difficult to find anything," he said. "I'm depending on those checks, for now."


How to know when your unemployment benefits will run out

Loss of jobless benefits could be serious blow to U.S. economy

Failure to pass unemployment insurance extension could cost billions, report says

-- Alana Semuels

Photo by greggoconnell via Flickr