Despite nearly $25 million spent on upgrades to state’s unemployment system, many Ohioans still can’t get through to speak to a live agent on the phone

Updated: Apr. 27, 2020 at 6:24 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - New upgrades to the unemployment office’s phone lines are live.

Officials say the massive $25 million dollars revamp of the system should enable more people to get the help they need.

But, 19 News continues to receive calls from desperate people, trying to get through to talk to a live agent.

People continue to have issues reaching someone in the unemployment office... despite a nearly 25 million dollar upgrade to the state's system.

Danielle Sedlak was laid off right after starting a new job at TopGolf in Cleveland.

It had just opened before the pandemic.

Thankfully, she received three weeks of unemployment payments before she had an issue she needed to call the unemployment office about.

“Getting a hold of them-- that’s just the part that-- it sucks. I cried,” she said on Monday. “Two friends of mine, they couldn’t get through this morning."

ODJFS Director Kim Hall says the upgrades prevent the system from dropping calls or simply hanging up because of high call volume.

"Over this weekend we had 283,000 calls that otherwise would have been dropped pulled into the system.

That’s helpful to people looking to reset a pin or check a claim through the automated system.

But the problem is that there's still no guarantee of getting through to a live agent.

“Not all of the millions of calls we have coming in are going to be able to hold for an agent,” Hall said.

“They have to figure something out, because people are going to start resorting to some bad measures to get by,” Sedlak said.

Right now, 1,600 agents are attempting to answer more than half a million calls that come in every day.

Hall says it would take hiring 2,400 more agents to handle them all.

The state hasn't added a call-back option for that reason.

“It still would require a person to do that,” Hall said.

Sedlak said, “They have to figure something out because people are going to start resorting to some bad measures to get by.”

Hall says the state is working with Amazon, IBM, and Deloit services to continue to improve the system.

People calling about the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program instead of regular unemployment are filtered into a different system.

Director Hall says 82,000 people have pre-registered for the PUA.

Payments are expected to go out for that program mid May.

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