That’s just flat out unacceptable.
From 2011 to 2014, jobless workers had 3.6 million calls blocked by the state and in an additional 1 million cases the unemployed hung up after being put on hold, the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau reported Tuesday. These numbers for the call centers don’t count the state’s automated phone lines for unemployment benefits, because the state doesn’t track the number of dropped calls to the automated system.
The audit confirmed reports reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that showed that the state has often been unable to handle the rush of calls from workers who were laid off because of the cold winter months and the recent deep recession.
Most workers can file for benefits online and do get their benefits quickly. But the phone problems date back at least to 2009 and got worse last winter even though overall jobless claims were falling.
Auditors found that almost 1.7 million phone calls to state centers by jobless workers were blocked last fiscal year because there was no one to answer the calls and not enough phone lines available to put the workers on hold. That left those callers no choice but to try to phone again later for help.
During most of the fiscal year ended in June, less than 10% of jobless workers’ calls were blocked by the state. But the problem spiked in December of 2013 and January of 2014. During those winter months marked by high seasonal unemployment and a large number of calls to the state, more than 80% of the unemployed workers calling for help were blocked.