Barry Levine has blown through two-thirds of his life savings while waiting for his unemployment insurance claim to be processed. He figures that, by sometime in September, he will have nothing left.
In the 10 weeks since the 52-year-old freelance ad copywriter and occasional actor applied for benefits, he has called the California Employment Development Department “thousands of times,” he said, just to reach a human being.
His application has gone missing in the overburdened state agency, which has processed 7.5million unemployment claims since the pandemic sent the economy reeling in March — nearly doubling the number filed during the worst full year of the Great Recession.
“It takes 150 redials before I get lucky and get someone on the phone,” he said. “I would try when I had time, half an hour here, an hour there. I’m not getting through, but I see no other way to contact these people, and I’m unemployed. This sort of became my de facto job — trying to get in touch with them to follow up the claim.”
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