Alabama's unemployment rate continues to soar it is now almost 11%. That means nearly 227,000 Alabamians do not know where their next pay check will come from.
When they call they unemployment office by the hundreds, it overwhelms the phone system cutting off others seeking help. The Department of Industrial Relations provided call date for the week of November 20th. It showed the 178 operators answered 13,342 calls, while the phone system hung on 4,875. Instead of getting answers to their questions many will hear a recording saying the center is experiencing an extremely high call load and to try your call again later.
"I don't know how many times somebody is calling in, but I know that two things are occurring. One is, on average somebody is having to call in more than one time. The second part of that is everybody that's entitled to benefits is getting into the system and we're getting them paid," explains Tom Surtees with the Department of Industrial Relations.
The phone lines are jammed because so many people are calling now looking for help. When they can't reach an operator at the call center, they'll call where ever they can to find answers. "I've received them at work. I've received them at home. I've had my wife tell me about somebody that needs help. I've had my children tell me about somebody that's unemployed and has a question," says Surtees. When Surtees gets that information he says he passes it in to the person in the department who can help the callers.