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Ways to Expedite The Frustrating Unemployment Process

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    Many people are having problems applying for unemployment these days, and/or they aren't able to get in touch with their state's unemployment department when they need to have a specific question answered. Wait times have been exceptionally long. For example, Pennsylvania's state unemployment site has said that it could take up to 12 days to get a response. Many states are still using outdated systems that are based on computer languages such as COBOL which is over 60 years old. It's large enough of an issue to where New Jersey's governor has expressed need for computer programmers that know the language. All that being said, what are some alternative ways one can get the help they need?

    Some state's unemployment offices have hired more call center workers in response to the issue of long wait times and no call backs. They've also extended phone and web service times. Many states have recommended that people call in off-peak hours, which is essentially at night in some states.

    One tool I found was DoNotPay. It is an app and website that not only helps you file for unemployment, but it also helps you get extensions on bills, waive late fees, fight parking tickets and cancel subscriptions. It's $3 a month, and they use a chatbot to help you fill out your unemployment application, and then they send it to your state's unemployment office. You pay for the service using your bank account. They use the same platform as Venmo and other apps that use Plaid. This might be worth looking into. If you can't afford the $3 a month, they do have an option where you can apply to have the fee waived.

    If you've been waiting for days or weeks for a response or application approval, I've read where sending an email to your state representative can be effective. For instance, it takes up to 12 days for PA's DOL to respond, and yet PA's Reps have answered 11,300 emails in just one day. I found a website where you can look up your state legislator by typing in your address. I think this is definitely something to consider, especially if you've been waiting weeks.

    What are some other tips people recommend?

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    That COBOL outdated system seems to be a nightmare, and basically states got caught completely off guard because they never properly prepared for a run on the state program anywhere close to this demand. Poor planning IMO.

    The last time I checked, at least 29 states have updated their systems to comply with expanded unemployment, after the govt finally gave them guidance as of April 5th. But of course it takes some states several weeks to update so that's in large part what is causing all the delays, at least for new filers.

    That and of course, just the sheer numbers of those applying.

    I'll be on the lookout for clever workarounds but for now the best advice I know is to make sure you triple check all the info you provide on your application before you submit, just to ensure you don't delay the process even further with typos or just wrong info. But if you do everything right, yeah, best to apply off peak hours or whenever your state recommends. And exercise patience, frustrating as it is.

    My state is asking everyone to only apply during certain days, based off of your area code. So I would check your state's DOL website to see if they have special instructions and monitor their FAQ page regularly for updates.

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    Good point. Have any of the states switched to a different system altogether? I know it would increase the delays in the short term, but in the long term, it may be a good thing. Or are all states just trying to fix an antiquated system that's being severely taxed.
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    I know they bought a lot of new computers here in NC, which we desperately needed. NC is the absolute pits when it comes to unemployment, it's the slowest state to pay and it also pays some of the least benefits in the country. I'm self employed and they aren't even going to start processing our applications until 4/25. I have been out of work for over a month now because our governor shut us down pretty quick and since building furniture is a non essential business I can't go to our shop to build or store to sell. My savings is about run dry, I'm also still waiting on our stimulus check lol... This has been an incredibly stressful month. Hopefully when unemployment kicks in I get a nice big check for backpay. I have filed my weekly certification every week, so we will see.