I've never been a victim of violence. I've never had any of my orifices (particularly the out-holes) violated. But after dealing with the U.S. Government's Employment Development Division, the despicable organization responsible for Unemployment Benefits, I feel like I have.
Here's the abbreviate saga:
Across the last 5.5 months, I've received a grand total of ONE WEEK OF BENEFITS. How did this happen? There was the paperwork snafu early on in which I didn't even know I had been sent a time-sensitive form. Why didn't I know? Well, they sent me mountains of useless paperwork and this was sandwiched in between. By the time I re-read the book and figured out what was what, I spent weeks calling them trying to get an answer. This was before they opened up their call centers on Saturday, and I NEVER got through, NOT EVEN ONCE.
Finally reached someone on a Saturday and they told me I'd have to open a new claim. Okay, fine. Money down the drain, but shit happens. I re-open, going through the arduous process again and things are all good. A few weeks later (nearly 5) I'm set to receive my first two weeks of payment. But only one week comes. There was a holding period, so the first week isn't paid.
Um... shouldn't the three months of nothing count as my waiting period?
So the next week I attempt to be a law-abiding citizen of the United States and report the freelance income I'm being paid over this next period. Where does that land? With another big fat ZERO three weeks later, saying I made too much to qualify. But they send another claim form which I fill out. Cut to three weeks later and I get a response that they want to schedule a PHONE INTERVIEW with me for the end of June. Now, this is on June 5th. They want to do the interview on June 27th. Fuck.
So I try calling during the week. Ha! Like that would ever work. So I hit up a guy on Saturday, he's helpful, puts in a request for a callback. I also email them (where they respond within 5 days). But they don't call back and I don't get my email responded to until June 13th. And what do they say?
They claim that I filled out my form wrong and didn't look for work one of the weeks. Bullshit. Bullshit bullshit bullshit. I double check those forms. While there's a minute possibility I screwed up or my tears erased some of the ink, I don't buy it for a second. So I respond to the email and... that's right, no response. I decide to just let them have their way. They win, I'll wait until June 27th.
That's today. And here's where I really get in my own way. I was up until 5am last night/this morning. Couldn't fall asleep, kept myself busy with useless crap. Finally forced myself to go to bed. The window for the interview was 8am-10am. At 9:58am the phone rings. It's an unknown number and I'm trying not to deal with any work stuff at 10am when I'm this tired. So I let it go to voicemail, then check it (had I been more awake this would have been the PERFECT time to use the Google Voice feature that allows you to listen in on a voicemail being left and then pick up the call).
Thanks to the magic of Google Voice, you can click below to hear what I heard.
I called back immediately. "We're currently experiencing more callers than we can handle." Again. Same. Again. Same. Again. Same. This goes on for roughly 7 minutes when I finally get through. It's a long list of crap to get to the options. I hit the wrong option and... the call disconnects me for a wrong button press (there is no 'speak to an operator' in the menus I was in). Rinse, repeat. Finally get through again, 6 minutes on hold, and I'm speaking to a person.
I explain the situation and then lay on the sympathy, laying out my situation - 5.5 months of unemployment, one week of money back from the system, I need her help. She's giving me the rote, robotic line that they can only answer questions on Saturday. Not good enough. She needs to help me now. We do this dance for a minute, finally she tells me to get a pen.
When I call back on Monday, I'll hear one of two messages. "Thank you" or "Welcome." If it's the former, hang up and try again. If it's the latter, immediately enter a secret button sequence. Then if I hear, "Due to..." hang up. If I hear, "Your estimated wait time is..." I should stay on the phone. When they answer, I need to ask to be transferred to the Determination Unit (who apparently is determined to keep their money away from me). They open at 8am, but I can't call then. I'll never get through. I need to call at 9am. And it'll be a minimum of 15 minutes before this trick even starts to work. And if they tell me they "WON'T" transfer me to the Determination Unit, then I have to demand to speak with a Supervisor.
Wow. Just, wow. I can't even believe this happened. I think I could rob a bank easier than reach these people during the week. I got off the call and I felt sick to my stomach. Mainly because of how ridiculous the whole process has been, but also because if I had slept like normal I might have been more inclined to deal with a private number calling me (and I have a private number, so who's the asshole now).
I don't know whether to vomit or cry right now.