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Jobless claims overwhelm state offices

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Usually, if individuals qualify for unemployment insurance, they go online to apply or call their state bureau responsible for processing the paperwork and paying them. However, even the online networks are having challenges. Last week, three states – Ohio, North Carolina, and New York – reported computer problems. Online systems in many other states are slowing because of the sheer volume they are handling.

Although many states have offices to help individuals look for jobs, the state employees there usually cannot help someone applying for benefits.

"We let [the employees] do a simple task on [the office's] behalf, but we don't want them to give out bad information," says Cullen, whose state no longer has offices for those filing for benefits.

Yet many times, the unemployed need to talk to a real person.

That was the case last week for Danielle Saxon of Elk Grove, Calif., a suburb of Sacramento. In October, she lost her job at a company that does home renovation. But her claim form disappeared in the mail, and for two weeks, she was unable to get through to anyone in the state Employment Development Department (EDD).

Finally, after missing two unemployment checks, she drove to a state office with six phones that would ring through directly to state workers. As she waited in line to use one of the phones, she tried to reach someone on her cellphone – in 86 separate calls.

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