In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are having problems applying for unemployment, 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 Many states are still using outdated systems that are based on computer languages such as COBOL which is over 60 years old.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?