SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — After weeks of complaints about Employment Development Department phone lines, this week the EDD added a new number, new hours, and hundreds of extra employees to help get people the unemployment answers they are desperate for — but has it helped?

CBS13 Investigative Reporter Julie Watts checked in with a few of our viewers who’ve been struggling to get answers for weeks. Their struggles and successes provide some guideposts for those who still can’t get through to representatives.

Many were optimistic when the governor announced increased staffing and hours for EDD phones, but it appears the claim representatives who can actually help fix problems are still only answering phones four hours a day.

Daily EDD Phone Struggles 

Karen is still waiting for her EDD payment five weeks after she was approved. She has made dozens of calls to the EDD but she says the line just disconnects.

Sal has now been waiting six weeks for his EDD payment.  He says he’s waited on hold nearly 30 hours over the past month. “The phone lines don’t work,” Sal said.

Shay and her husband Bobby are both furloughed school district employees. They’ve been struggling to pay their bills for weeks while trying to figure out why Bobby was disqualified from unemployment.

READ: Coronavirus Unemployment: Getting Answers For The Self-Employed

“[I called] 632 times before I gave up that and went to the new call center number,” Shay said. 

After weeks of sending messages to the EDD through its UI OnlineSM “Contact Us” link, Shay and Bobby say they still couldn’t get answers. The responses they received, and shared with CBS13, were confusing, unhelpful and did not address their issues.

They were encouraged by promises of increased EDD phone line staffing, so they decided to dedicate their days to getting ahold of a human on the phone.

“Ultimately, what it really came down to was actually putting in the time, energy and stress to play, hang up and redial,” Shay explained.

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The “Hang Up and Redial” Game

The EDD has various call center lines, which can be confusing. On Wednesday, Shay said she and Bobby dialed the EDD’s main customer service 632 times.

That 1-800-300-5616 number that is still only staffed from 8 a.m. – 12 p.m. on Monday through Friday.

“Once their call center hours closed at noon, I started calling the new call center a number that the governor just opened up,” Shay said.

The new number, 1-833-978-2511, is now staffed 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week.

After calling that number another 100 times, Shay did get ahold of a human, but her success was short-lived.

“They told me we can’t help with claims. We’re only here to help support the UI online,” she said.

It turns out the new number is only for technical help, password resets, UI Online Questions and General Information. The EDD stresses that the new call center representatives “will not have access to your claim or payment information.”

READ: Coronavirus Unemployment: 3 Weeks? Where’s My Money?

The representative did offer to transfer Shay to someone who could help but after another hour on hold, “I was directed to a voicemail that hadn’t been set up,” she said. “When I lost that call yesterday afternoon. It broke me.”

Shay is not alone.

Wide-Spread EDD Phone Frustration 

After a full week of increased staffing, most people who call say they are still hearing the standard message “we are currently receiving more calls than we can answer,” before they are disconnected.

CBS13 has had a steady stream of viewer emails from people struggling with EDD errors, denials and missing payments. They’re turning to CBS13 for answers since they can’t get through to the EDD.

Sal and Karen still haven’t reached a human at the EDD.

Karen did find out, by calling he automated self help line 1-866-333-4606, that the EDD funded her Bank of America debit card account.

But when she called BofA, at 1-866-692-9374,  to find out why she hadn’t received her money, the BofA rep said they didn’t see the money in her account.

But Shay and Bobby offer a glimmer of hope.

The Secret to Success 

“It really is the luck of the draw,” Shay said.

After eight hours of calls on Wednesday, with a crushing blow at the end, Shay and Bobby decided to give it another shot on Thursday.

They kept at it and began tag-team calling the main number at 7:30 a.m. and by 9 a.m.,  somebody finally answered.

“They knew immediately that his disqualification was wrong,” Shay said.

After weeks of struggles, their problems were resolved in minutes. All it took was getting ahold of an elusive live EDD claim representative.

READ: Coronavirus Unemployment: EDD Clarifies Confusing Question — ‘No, You Don’t Have To Lie’

The Take-Away

The bottom line is that the new number with extended hours isn’t for people with claim issues.

In an email late Friday the EDD told CBS13:

“The new secondary call center continues to build capacity daily with all of the redirected staff going through training and joining the line.  This line is a huge help to us and to our claimants because they folks can answer a lot of the most common questions we are getting and can help with the basic technical assistance someone may need in using the UI Online system (password resets, etc.)”

For those who are struggling with EDD errors, denials or wondering why their payment hasn’t arrived after more than five weeks, they still have to call the mainline, 1-800-300-5616, which is still only manned four hours a day from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.

The hope is that the new number will relieve the load on the old number, so you might actually get through.

EDD’s Full Response:

CBS13 has published EDD’s response, in its entirety, in an effort to provide as many resources as possible for our viewers who are still struggling to get answers.

EDD Response 4/24/20:

  • “Online remains the easiest way to apply.
      • We want people to know we have numerous resources online, including all the things they need to get their claim processed and benefits paid if they are eligible. The streamlining, or changing of eligibility requirements, will allow us to automatically process large volumes of claims through our UI Online system.
      • If you have a question about your Unemployment Insurance (UI) claim, log in to UI OnlineSM and select Contact Us.
  • By Phone
    • The EDD has three different Unemployment Insurance support lines to help you:
      • Option 1: UI Automated Self-Service Line – Open 24/7
        • Call 1-866-333-4606 (English) or 1-866-333-4606 (Spanish)
        • Services offered: Get information on how to file a new claim or reopen an existing claim and your last payment issued. You can also certify for benefits using EDD Tele-Cert, request copies of your 1099G tax information, and find your local America’s Job Center of California.
      • Option 2: General Support Line – Open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week
        • Based on feedback from Call Center Managers, most people’s questions and requests are for technical assistance with our UI Online system (resetting passwords, updating email addresses after we ensure people are who they say they are – to avoid fraud, etc.
        • Call: 1-833-978-2511
        • Services offered:
          • General Unemployment Insurance) program questions
          • technical help including registration
          • password resets
          • EDD Account Number
          • and how to use UI OnlineSM
      • Option 3: UI Claims Support Line –  Open 8 a.m. to 12 noon (Pacific Time), Monday through Friday
        • Call: 1-800-300-5616
        • Staffed by experienced UI representatives who have been trained over many months on the complexity of the UI program and who can actually file a claim for people over the phone.  These representatives answer phones in the mornings (8:00 – noon) and process UI claims in the afternoons.
        • Services offered:
          • File a claim by phone.

We will provide updates on the lines as we have more info on the strategies and tactics we are using to better serve Californians who are counting on us to provide benefits quickly.”


Follow our continuing coverage as CBS13 works to get answers to your Coronavirus Unemployment Questions: 

CBS13 Investigates: Coronavirus Unemployment

 

Julie Watts