The Real Deal: Unemployment line busy and some not getting through
Updated: Friday, August 2 2013, 10:24 PM EDT
ALBANY – More people are out of work locally than ever before and the Department of Labor is working overtime to try and provide benefits. January was one of the busiest month on record at the unemployment office. The Department of Labor took 500,000 phone calls in the month of January from folks who had questions about their unemployment benefits; that’s a 35% increase compared to January 2012. Because of the increase in calls, the time that any given caller will wait on-hold to speak to a live operator has jumped from 7 minutes to 11 minutes.
Marc Hitchcock of Watervliet has been looking for work for a year, “I used to feel bad even trying to call for benefits until I realized, wow, I'm having trouble and I really need the benefits,” he says. He’s been collecting weekly benefits while he sends out resumes and goes out on interviews. Four weeks ago though, the benefits stopped appearing in his bank account and an online message directed him to call the labor department. “I’ve been calling for four weeks now and I haven't been able to get through to a human-being…the message always says I can leave my number and they will call me back, 11 times I've scheduled call backs that have never come,” Hitchcock says.
When Hitchcock called CBS6 for help, our Investigative Reporter reached out to the labor department to see what the problem was. A spokesman for the NYS Labor Department, Leo Rosales, says state technicians have since uncovered an issue with the automated system recognizing telephone connections with voice-over-internet phone services. The Hitchcock’s use MagicJack for their telephone service, “that connection, our system wasn't able to recognize so we are looking into that to see whatever adjustments and refinements we can make to our system so that way the calls will work,” Rosales says.
At the moment, the labor department isn’t sure how far reaching the problem is but Rosales suggests anyone with VoIP or digital phone service use a cell phone or traditional landline when calling into the unemployment line to ensure their numbers are being recognized. 95% of the people who leave their number on the automated service get a call back, according to Rosales but the other 5%, or 25,000 people in January, have run into some issues.