For years I have been working hard to get ahead in Santa Barbara, working and moving forward, trying to work towards buying a house or starting a future here. I am 30 years old and recently, after almost 10 straight years of employment, out of work. Despite my ego, I applied for unemployment benefits.
This is where the story gets interesting. I applied literally the day after I lost my job. Within five days I received all the preliminary paperwork, the explanation of my benefits, what the benefit amount would be. (Almost 50 percent of what I would normally take home, by the way.) Anyways, I also received a letter scheduling a phone “interview” for a particular day between 10 a.m. and noon.
Well, the day comes. I haven’t heard anything else from the employment office so I figure everything is on track. I’m waiting around, take a call about a job prospect, get up and use the restroom, come back and see a missed call on my phone. I listen to the message; it’s the employment office.
The message says, “Hi, Mr. Reid, this is the unemployment office. We had a scheduled interview today, but it seems we missed you. If you could not have kept the date and time you needed to call a few days beforehand. We will file your claim by the paperwork we have received. Goodbye.”
Well, my first reaction is, they expected me to sit for two hours and never leave the phone? Next, okay then, what is the decision? I need to know if I plan on being completely broke or only slightly broke.
This part is what gets me the most. I try to go through normal channels to get some information. I call the employment office, but, alas, you can’t talk to anyone because they have too many calls coming in. So you have an automated option menu, which only says you can’t talk to anyone—then hangs up!
Email! They have to have email. They do. So I email them asking the status of my claim and explaining the reason why I missed the interview. Mind you, this email went out 10 minutes after the call from the employment office was missed, so there was no doubt I was trying.
I get the response three days later. It says,
“Here is our reply:
Explanation to your inquiry regarding determination is as follows: The EDD scheduled you to a telephone interview on 07/27/10 to resolve an issue of eligibility. Interviews are conducted by phone within the timeframe and date stated on the Telephone Interview Notification and Instruction notice DE4800/Z/ that was mailed to you. If you missed the interview, a decision will be made based on all the information provided. All checks/benefits will be delayed until a Determination decision has been made by the Department. If the Department finds you eligible, benefit payments will be processed for all certified eligible weeks. Please allow 7-10 days for mailing benefit checks.”
One, that did not tell me about my status. Two, it repeated the same automated response about time frame. Three, did they even read my question?
My point being, I have paid into unemployment for going on 15 years now. I am struggling to survive in an economic turndown that was not my fault. Yet when I go to use the services I have been paying for, I get the runaround, am ignored and blatantly disrespected. There is no excuse to not have a way to contact a live person about something like this. This is deadline sensitive, yet you have no way at all to contact someone live.
Everyday after the initial missed-call incident I tried to get more information, either from the automated phone system or anything else. No luck. For weeks I was left with no idea what was happening.
Part of the rules are, if you are getting unemployment benefits then you have to be registered with the county’s job search site. I received a confirmation email from EDD saying that my registration and resume were processed. That gave me a bit of hope that at least the process was still moving. And on August 8, everything changed. I checked my mail box and found three letters from EDD. They were all the same size, same shape, looked like the same letter. ”Hmmm!” I thought, with excitement and relief. “Could it be three checks?”
The first was a blank page, except for some tiny writing on the top margin saying, “The weeks of . . . were considered a waiting period.” I opened the next one. “The weeks of . . . you earned too much income.” Opening the third, I found the form to submit, to then receive a check!
I am not sure why you would have to have a waiting period; this isn’t an assault rifle. My bills don’t have a waiting period. And what’s with the “earned too much income” one? The weeks they referred to were after I lost my job. So I’m not sure, but I have a feeling the EDD was referring to my severance pay and holiday payout.
After submitting the form, I received my first benefit check in the mail some five days later. Although it is as low as I thought, it is something, and I am grateful.
I just wish the process wasn’t so frustrating and disconnected.
P.S. I have started to use the online claim form to submit my bi-weekly benefit claims. Just FYI, EDD, the website is down and/or nonfunctional about every other day. Hello? Hello? Is anybody alive in there?