SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — San Diegans are continuing to push to get through to the state agency that handles unemployment claims, as bills come due.
The region's unemployment rate is now a record 15%, as 195,000 people lost their jobs in April.
Meanwhile, the Employment Development Department continues to be inundated with people trying call. The agency plans to add 1,800 temporary full-time and hourly workers over the coming weeks to handle the influx.
"It would be so helpful if I could just reach out to someone," said Ashley Porter, of El Cajon, who can't get through to ask why she has not received unemployment. "It's been very stressful for me."
Porter still has a job at a medical call center, but had to reduce her hours to take care of her six-year-old daughter, Adalynn, whose school closed. The EDD's website says people who take that step may be eligible for jobless benefits, but that it's on a case-by-case basis and involves a phone interview.
Porter says she never got that phone call, but what did arrive was a letter that she is eligible for up to $348 per week. But when she goes online to claim benefits, she gets an error message that reads - benefits exceeded. Her calls and emails to EDD are going unanswered.
"I just feel so low, I just feel like I've worked so long and I've worked so hard that I mean, now that this has happened, can I just get a little assistance?" said Porter, who says her employer has not allowed her position to work from home.
A spokesperson for the EDD expressed empathy for Porter's situation, but declined to discuss specifics. The spokesperson said, however, that the benefits exceeded message probably means the claimant makes too much to get benefits.
State law says workers with reduced hours are eligible for unemployment if 75% of their reduced earnings comes out to less than what their weekly unemployment check would be.
Porter says she's now earning about $600 per week at her reduced hours.
But 75% of $600 is $450. That's more than the $348 she would receive.
Meanwhile, she says she's getting behind on bills. She added her $1,700 rent is coming due, and she's working on a payment plan with her landlord.