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Additional 275 people answering unemployment calls, wait time still hours for some

5 months 1 week 6 days ago Thursday, April 09 2020 Apr 9, 2020 April 09, 2020 6:31 PM April 09, 2020 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE - When Lance Albarado was laid off from his job about a three weeks ago due to the coronavirus, he had no idea accessing unemployment aid would be so difficult.

He filed for unemployment online and says he was denied. Since then, he's been trying to get answers as to why.

"You got to call this 866 number to get in touch with the unemployment office, but you call in the morning, you call in the evening, you can call all day long you just don't get to talk to anyone," Albarado said.

Even calling the local number was no help.

"I call the local office and they say they can't do anything for you. They can see the issue, but they can't do anything for you," Albarado said. "How can you receive benefits if you can't talk to anyone?"

The Louisiana Workforce Commission says it's been swamped by calls and emails, and it's trying to answer them as quickly as possible. Emails sent from 2 On Your Side took some time to be answered. LWC Secretary Ava Dejoie and her team say they're busy and only had a couple of minutes to speak with WBRZ Thursday.

"Even with putting more people onto the call center, pulling staff from throughout the agency and around the state, there are certain staff that - once claims get more technical than asking just a few entry questions - those need to go to other people," said Dejoie.

The unemployment office typically has 25 people answering phones. Since unemployment numbers have increased drastically amid the COVID-19 pandemic, there are now more than 300 people working in the call centers.

Individuals who are filing for unemployment successfully are receiving their benefits. This week alone, the LWC reports it has paid out more than $25 million in state unemployment insurance benefits. A similar amount was paid out last week. So far this week about 170,000 people have recertified their claims.

Albarado says he could use the extra funds during this time of unemployment and says he can't afford to wait much longer for someone to address his concerns.

"I haven't had a paycheck for almost a month," he said. "I just hope that everyone has better luck than me."

It seems like there are quite a few other people who are in the same boat. Many have reached out to 2 On Your Side, others have posted in help groups on Facebook. Many say they spent hours on hold only to hear from someone on the other end who can't answer their question. Some say the automated recording continuously hung up on them.

Albarado says he's been calling five or six times a day and will continue to do so until someone is able to help.

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