Advice if you are filing for Unemployment Insurance
'Unemployment is of vital importance, particularly to the unemployed'. Wise words from Edward Heath.
So one of the benefits of being laid off is you can file for unemployment insurance (if you quit - you don't get it) which can be helpful in ensuring bills (well, some at least) get paid and we don't have to eat Top Ramen every day.
Of course there are other benefits to being laid off - such as not having to get up before 8am or needing to shower before 11am, but I won't be covering those in this post. No, this one is all about the Employment Development Department ('EDD'), and some pieces of advice I feel important to share to make sure others who need to file a claim have a smooth transaction.
The things I like about the EDD, is they have a system in place that if you follow their rules exactly - checks will show up on your doorstep weekly - and getting paid weekly rocks! Of course, I'd like to get paid MORE weekly, but I guess that means I need to get my butt back to work...
The thing I don't like about the EDD, is if you deviate even one little teeny tiny bit from their 'rules' - all hell breaks loose, and the system comes to a complete halt. Seriously. They are not prepared, and do not have the resources available, to handle deviations to their program. It totally sends them into a tailspin that is extremely hard to recover from.
So what was my little deviation you ask? (as you know I speak from experience)...
...missing my Reemployment and Eligibility Assessment ('REA') appointment. Seems if you miss this (which happens within the third week of filing a claim), your file is closed and checks stop - immediately. Of course you don't realize it at the time. You notice the check didn't come one week, but figure something happened at the post office. Stupidly you do nothing as you think it will simply show up in a couple of days. Wrong.
Fast forward to five weeks and 15+ phone calls later, I finally find out they closed my claim as I missed my REA appointment and I need to talk to a manager to plead my case and get them to reopen my claim. Sure. Seems simple enough. But just try getting them on the phone. The EDD phone system has a limit as to how many people can be waiting in queue at a time, so most of the time they are swamped and the phone hangs up on you. No ability to leave a message. No option to keep holding. It simply hangs up on you. There are 1000's of people with nothing else to do but call them, so getting a live person on the phone can take hours - sometimes days.
Thankfully today, I finally had the opportunity to speak with a manager and supposedly my claim has been reopened and five weeks worth of checks will be cut this week. I am told it was good I called in as it seems there are so many claims going through the office on a daily basis, there isn't enough staff to handle it quickly. If you don't call, you have to wait until they can 'get around to it' which could have meant I would have been waiting another five weeks for resolution and payment...
Now all I have to do is wait for the postman.
I honestly feel sorry for the folks at the EDD. An insider told me most of them work for $15/hour and their day is filled with calls from irrate people looking for their checks. That cannot be easy. I have thick skin and I can't imagine doing that day in and day out. Add to this the EDD has been understaffed for well over three years which has only compounded the problem. They just don't have the resources to handle the flow of claims they get on a monthly basis. This is horrible. How can we expect anything to ever get done in this environment?
So they tell me to write a letter to our governor. You know what? I will. Yes, Arnold is going to hear from Kiki. Goingto get an earful actually. Holding checks for five weeks because you don't have the staff needed to review the claims is inexcusable. What is happening to our state? I know this is not the only department suffering...where are all our tax dollars going? What if I was living paycheck to paycheck? What if I couldn't pay my rent or put food on my table? I don't care you are understaffed. I am trying to correct a problem and you are making it extremely difficult to do so.
I guess I should stop with my rant.
Things seem to be getting back on track for me, so I thought I would share a few suggestions to those getting ready to file a claim as I wish to prevent what happened to me:
(1) Read the 'welcome' pack front to back. There will be an appointment request buried in there (think mine was eight to nine pages back) that you MUST attend. You miss this appointment - you might as well come on over and hang out with me as we wait for our claims to be reopened. Nothing is as important as this appointment. Remember this.
(2) Complete each weekly report fully and remember to sign the form. Your claim payment will be delayed if you forget to sign. Make sure you do not return the form before the week you are reporting on is over. (i.e. week ends on Sunday 7/9/06 - do not mail the form before Monday 7/10/06 or they may stop your check).
(3) If you don't receive a check within 10 days, something is wrong. Call them. Their phone system will tell you when the last check was issued, so if it was more than a week ago - get a live body on the phone to tell you what is going on. Don't wait two-three weeks like I did as that then turns into five-six weeks and you will find yourself wondering 'chicken Top Ramen tonight or beef'?
I hope this helps. I have so much more I wish to say on this matter, but will refrain as I don't want them to stop my checks again.
07/07/06 UPDATE: I called the system today and it tells me a check was cut this morning for all missing weeks (5). Should be up to date as of early next week. Yahoo!
07/10/06 UPDATE: Checks arrived today and I am now current. Now, let this be a lesson...follow the rules. Well, the EDD's rules anyway.
Technorati tags: edd unemployment unemploymentinsurance unemploymentoffice reappt