The Jobless Can’t Reach to State Call Centers

People who have a problem with unemployment benefits get endless busy signal.

The state’s call center for PA unemployment benefits in downtown Allentown is not set up to assist the unemployed, but most days some will turn up anxious for answers after receiving a non-stop busy signal when they try calling.

An employee of the call center memorized one woman who claimed she had pressed  redial 137 times before she even got the automatic answering service that inform you how long your wait will be. That wait for her was 2 hours and 40 minutes.

The call center employee said, “It’s bad, it is really bad”. Allentown’s call center on Hamilton Street is one of seven in Pennsylvania. The state stopped an eighth call center in Philadelphia in August and jobless 78 workers in response to a loss of federal unemployment benefits.

Presently, the state has 520 employees to receive calls and handle calls for the 525,000 laid-offs as per Sara Gourlet, spokeswoman for the state Department of Labor & Industry. Of those unemployed 275,000 are collecting benefits.

Gourlet started inspecting into this after a neighbor told her he had been trying for days to reach someone in an unemployment office who could tell him how to resolve a problem with his claim.

He strived hard to fix the problem online at the Labor department website but there’s no selection available for his specific issue. “I tried calling 30 or 40 times,” he said. “You can never get through.”

After hearing number of similar stories, Community Legal Services of Philadelphia had a paralegal do an 11-day experiment to observe how long it would take her every day to expend on the toll-free-number.

For instance, on Aug 28, 2012, the paralegal got 37 consecutive busy signals and stopped trying after two hours. On Sept.5, she got 78 repeated busy signals after four hours. The least amount of time it took her over 11 days to get in touch with a live person was 29 minutes.

According to Sharon Dietrich, managing partner of Community Legal Services, the logjam has left many of her agency’s clients in terrible crisis. “It’s true all over the state,” she said. “A lot of my clients are using cell phones and they have limits on their cell phone minutes. We have some people who come to our office just to use a phone to call.”

Dietrich said she recognizes that the state is attempting to do more with less. But layoffs at call centers and cuts in the hours the jobless can get help –now a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday – restricting people who are seeking work.

She said, “I don’t think you can run a system where people can’t access the system.”

In brief, there aren’t sufficient people employed in trying to help the laid offs find the way to unemployment system.

According to Gourlet, the curbs have come in response to a $30 million drop in funds the state obtains from the U.S. government to manage unemployment compensation. As the state unemployment rate has dipped, together with the number of people filing for PA Unemployment benefits, so has the federal money for administration.

Gourlet recommended that the unemployed can call from the CareerLink Union Boulvard, which has a phone line with better chances of getting through to staff at the call centers.

The call center employee has also told Gourlet that the staffs are under guidelines to stay on the line when a call comes from a CarrerLink so the phone can be passed from one jobless person to another to another.

Gourlet, who said the state plans to include more temporary call center workers, said callers sometimes have shorter waits calling later in the day and later in the week. Other unemployed people have had some success calling their legislator to mediate.

Keep in mind; the Legislature previous year passed a law that in order to collect benefits, the laid offs must now be able to prove they have applied for three jobs per week as well as signed up for employment search services with the Pennsylvania CareerLink.

So how can we anticipate people to do a full-time job search if they have to use up business hours redialing when they have a question about their checks?

14 thoughts on “The Jobless Can’t Reach to State Call Centers

  1. Shawn

    This is BS” this article was posted in 2013, and now it’s 2017 and the unemployment system has gotten nothing but worse. Now you can only call three days a week. My Dad sat for those three days this week hitting redial all day, and still hasn’t gotten anything but a busy signal. And they called him last week while he wasn’t home, and left a message saying that he needs to call them, and there shutting down his claim until he does. But then you can’t get through when you call. The system is broke!!! Last year it took me two full days of redial, then two more hours on hold to get through. It’s BS

    1. Sam

      It looks like there was an issue with the phone lines during the last week of December 2016.

      I hope the issue is sorted now and you were able to contact the Unemployment Office.

      1. Ronald Nelson

        I have been trying to call the benefits phone number listed, with a busy Signal for a week. I haven’t received a payment for the end of December or January. How do I get answers.

        1. Sam

          Due to an unprecedented shutdown of at least three call centers in the state, many calls from claimants are going unanswered. We also have strong reasons to believe that there will be a delay in processing claims and this situation is expected to continue for a few more weeks.

          Please be patient or visit a local CareerLink office to get faster access to the Claims System by phone. You can also try filing the weekly claim over the internet.

  2. linda

    ooooh boy. i don’t think the phone system is working yet. i’ve been trying to call the uc center since early last week for a non payment for 2 weeks in dec 2016. I’ve made 444 attempts as of yesterday 1/9/17 and finally got thru at 3:30 in the afternoon, only to find out that i had an hour or more wait on hold, and the office closes at 4pm LOL. since the above article is old, would you happen to know what the current stats are on how many uc employees:claimants? also, would you be able to provide the allentown office’s address and do you know if the line issue has been resolved? might be time for a road trip if this isn’t resolved soon!

    thank you, and Ii await your reply promptly 🙂

    1. Sam

      Due to an unprecedented shutdown of at least three call centers in the state, many calls from claimants are going unanswered. We also have strong reasons to believe that there will be a delay in processing claims and this situation is expected to continue for a few more weeks.

      Please be patient or visit a local CareerLink office to get faster access to the Claims System by phone.

  3. John

    I have been trying to call for three whole weeks, from December 26th when my biweekly claim was owed, and wasnt able to be filed till now, I make on average 500 attempts, always met with a busy signal, or just randomly getting disconnected. I could reopen my claim, but I am still missing out on a lot of unemployment due to horribly faulty communications. How am I supposed to take care of this if no one answers, I can’t even get into a que where my call will be picked up later. I start at 7:50am and get busy signals then, which persists till 4:15pm. What am I supposed to do, starve over the winter?

    1. Sam

      Due to an unprecedented shutdown of at least three call centers in the state, many calls from claimants are going unanswered. We also have strong reasons to believe that there will be a delay in processing claims and this situation is expected to continue for a few more weeks.

      Please be patient or visit a local CareerLink office to get faster access to the Claims System by phone. You can also try filing the weekly claim over the internet.

  4. David

    I agree with Sam,This system is not working at all….I have made exactly 1,700 attempts to service center on my cell phone today and another 220 attempts from my land line…no luck talking to anyone…first time laid off in over 20 yrs. when you really need that unemployment that we pay in to it would be nice to be able to get it

    1. Sam

      Due to an unprecedented shutdown of at least three call centers in the state, many calls from claimants are going unanswered. We also have strong reasons to believe that there will be a delay in processing claims and this situation is expected to continue for a few more weeks.

      Please be patient or visit a local CareerLink office to get faster access to the Claims System by phone. You can also try filing the weekly claim over the internet.

  5. Gloria Andrejcik

    My husband has been trying for 2 days to reach them. He was left a voicemail on Wednesday 1/18/17 to call there was information that they needed. He spent a lot of time on Thursday 1/19/17 until 4pm trying to call and now we find out they aren’t open on Friday’s. He’ll try again on Monday I guess but this is ridiculous. There should be an email solution to an Agent’s need for more info, instead of sitting hitting redial for hours and then never getting through. What a waste of my tax dollars!

    1. Sam

      Due to an unprecedented shutdown of at least three call centers in the state, many calls from claimants are going unanswered. We also have strong reasons to believe that there will be a delay in processing claims and this situation is expected to continue for a few more weeks.

      Please be patient or visit a local CareerLink office to get faster access to the Claims System by phone. You can also try filing the weekly claim over the internet.

  6. Frances

    I am amazed at the lack of response from our state. I was let go in September, filed 3 times in the fall, turned down, filed again in December, the website accepted my filing and I have YET to receive payment or understand why I was turned down before. I pay taxes into the state, my taxes have gone up under this administration and I am getting NO help from the state. What does a person have to do to get benefits?? I have called multiple times and gotten a busy signal. This is UNACCEPTABLE.

    1. Sam

      Due to an unprecedented shutdown of at least three call centers in the state, many calls from claimants are going unanswered. We also have strong reasons to believe that there will be a delay in processing claims and this situation is expected to continue for a few more weeks. Please be patient or visit a local CareerLink Office to get faster access to the Claims System by phone. You can also try filing the weekly claim over the internet.

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