This is how long Camilla Christiansen Poole has been waiting on hold with the North Carolina Job Security Division, trying to find out why she couldn’t file an unemployment claim online.
The resident of Asheville, North Carolina, was fired from her medical mail position on March 24 – one of many unemployed workers due to the coronavirus crisis. She called the division dozens of times, only to be disconnected. But finally, Monday, she was put on hold.
“I was pretty much seated, in addition to walking my dogs,” said Poole, who was ready to stay in line all night. ” I was so scared. I knew it was probably a blessing to have been put on hold. I was really surprised when someone finally answered. “
Yet while Poole is among the millions of economic victims of the pandemic, she is not one of the nearly 10 million Americans who first applied for unemployment benefits in the last two weeks of March – because, like countless others, she was unable to complete her request and be approved.
The crushing of layoffs and holidays has overwhelmed state unemployment agencies. More than 1,000 readers from coast to coast have written to CNN in the past two days about the error messages, frozen screens, disconnected calls, and busy signals they encountered when they have attempted to file their initial applications.
Congress is channeling $ 1 billion in stimulus funds to help states manage the unprecedented workload. The money cannot come soon enough, as most state agencies deal with outdated technology and smaller staff due to recent low unemployment rates.
Impossible to pass
When Poole finally got a representative, she was told to upload two pieces of ID, which she quickly did. But it has not yet been approved for unemployment benefits. Poole, who is married, called dozens of times this week but was unable to recover.
“It just underscores how badly prepared we were,” said Poole, 43, who talks to the couple’s bank about the possibility of deferring their mortgage payments next month. “It’s super frustrating. “
The agency said on Friday that it was “acting aggressively” to better cope with the unprecedented surge in deposits by hiring 50 additional employees, concluding a contract with an additional call center of 200 people, adding computer servers and purchasing new equipment.
About 370,000 North Carolinians have applied for benefits since March 16, up from 3,000 in a typical week before the pandemic.
Busy signals and disconnects
In San Antonio, Texas, Liam Apperley put the State Workforce Commission on speed dial after being put on leave from sales and training work at a business development firm on March 16.
Apperley had called 5,257 times at noon Thursday – he verified his cell phone account – but would either receive a busy signal, a message that all circuits were busy, or an automated recording to maintain the line, only to be disconnected or receive a voice message saying the agency has been overwhelmed with calls. On Friday, he tried to call a minute before the office opened at 8:00 am, but received a message that it was closed. After that, all he heard were busy signals.
More than half a million Texans have filed claims in the past 18 days, the commission said on Friday. The number will soon exceed the total received throughout 2019. The agency recommended that residents stagger the days they deposit based on the first digit of their area code to facilitate tightening.
Apperley, 48, who is the main breadwinner of his family and had to start withdrawing his savings, would prefer that the commission set up a system to take the coordinates of the residents and refer their call at a certain time, as the many companies do. .
“Even if I received (a message) from Texas Workforce that we would call you back in three or four days, at least I would know there was light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.