CRANSTON, R.I. —
It’s a sound familiar to thousands of Rhode Islanders looking for unemployment benefits.
“Due to extremely high call volume, the unemployment insurance call center is not able to take your call at this time,” says a recording from the state Department of Labor and Training.
For John Marques, it’s relatively new. He was laid off from his construction job the day before Thanksgiving.
“Find a new system. This is an awful system for people,” Marques said.
Frustrated and wanting to talk to a person, Marques went to the DLT’s offices in Cranston. NBC 10 tagged along.
“It took me and hour and 20 minutes just to talk to somebody,” he told a clerk.
Over the summer, the DLT lost federal funding and had to lay off one-third of its unemployment insurance staff.
“I wish that we had more people. I wish that we could do better customer service than we’re doing,” DLT spokeswoman Laura Hart.
The average wait time on the phone is 40 minutes.
“It pains me to say that you need to expect waits. You are going to have to expect waits if you’re going to use the phone. If you can contact us online or send us an email, that’s going to be faster for you and less frustrating,” Hart said.
Marques does not have a computer, and he said he’s not quick with the Internet.
“It went good, but they said it’s going to take a while,” Marques said. “I don’t know when I’m going to get my check.”
About 60,000 Rhode Islanders are unemployed; about half collect unemployment benefits.
The DLT said it is moving toward replacing the entire filing system to an online system.