CINCINNATI — Tricia Luithle was laid off from her call center job on March 23 because of COVID-19. The road to receiving unemployment benefits through the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services has taken more patience than she ever could have imagined.
“I was on hold for 45 minutes before I got through to somebody, and then they had to transfer me to somebody, so that took 30 minutes,” Luithle said. “But once I got through to the second person, she was able to explain why I got denied, which was attached to an old unemployment claim, so that’s what my problem was and we got it fixed.”
She turned to the Facebook page Hold Ohio Unemployment Compensation Responsible, where she found others going through the same situation. In it, she also found tips and tricks on how to get help on the phone faster. Things like:
- As soon as you get someone on the phone, say "Please take down my number and call me back if we get disconnected."
- Try calling really early in the morning.
- Pay attention to the hold music. It changes the closer you get to someone who can help.
Luithle said groups like this are helpful because people who are going through the same things are able to answer each other's questions.
One tip she learned had us skeptical — we had to try it ourselves to see if it works (it does!).
“When you call (877) 644-6562, it’s going to ask if you want it in English, so you press 1. Then, you press the number 0 three times, but you have to press it real quick,” she said. “One morning I tried it out, I posted that I had music going on and other people were like, 'Me, too, I got it. It works!'”
Want to connect to other people in the Cincinnati area who are looking for work or dealing with the unemployment process? Join our Facebook page.
Another piece of advice is to call during the weekend.
“We have much lower call volumes on Saturday and Sunday, even though we are open, so I will just put that out there,” said Kimberly Hall, the director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. “We have a full day on Saturday and then work 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday and the call volume is just dramatically different over the weekend.”
During the week, the average wait time might be anywhere between 25 and 40 minutes, Hall said. During the weekend, the average time could be around 15 minutes.
What is the state doing to speed up the process?
ODJFS has paid more than $1.9 billion in unemployment compensation to more than 536,000 Ohioans, Hall said.
“We continue to have conversations in this forum, and we hear elsewhere about the frustration for individuals whose claims have not yet been processed,” she said through a Zoom interview. “We’re making good progress on that front.”
To back that up, she said that more than 85% of their claims are, and have been, processed, which means that more than 900,000 have been approved, denied or withdrawn.
“We have about 14.6%, to be specific, that are pending,” she said. “My focus, certainly, is keenly on those getting through the remaining pending claims and then, certainly, also continued focus on our call center agents support and our automated technology support for those who are working to get through on the phones.”
According to Hall, there is a high approval rate of 60% for the claim applications. About 4.9% are denied.
“That actually tracks fairly closely to what we experience in terms of percentages in ‘normal’ times. We have about 30%, or a third or so, that end up being denied when you undertake an analysis of the entire pool of applicants,” she said. “So that means the vast majority of applicants are eligible for benefits.”
Meanwhile, you can also do this
JFS workforce management deputy director Ryan Thompson said there are more than 100,000 opportunities for Ohioans to acquire a job while the claims are processed.
OhioMeansJobs.com lists employment opportunities as well as virtual events to help tweak and build resumes as well as help unemployed or students start a career.
“(That website) lists millions of resumes with advanced filtering tools that make it easy to find the promising candidates as well as for individuals," Thompson said.
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