Ten million people have filed for unemployment in the last two weeks. Hundreds of thousands more were unable to do so, due to flooded call centers and jammed websites. New York State normally processes 50,000 claims weekly, but in the last week of March received over 8.2 million. In New Mexico, a state with a population of two million, call centers reported half a million calls in one day! Workers desperately seeking assistance to buy food, pay rent, and cover daily needs were unable to even submit a claim for unemployment.
Some workers have called every day for ten days, calling more than 700 times before they have gotten through to someone who can help. Others report waiting for up to twelve hours on hold. For those able to file online, website crashes are frequent. To get through, people have found you have to call at 3:00AM to avoid the backup.
Unemployment and welfare services have never had adequate processing systems. Like other public services, funding and resources have been slashed for decades. Many states are functioning on old data centers and hardware systems that aren’t adaptable to modern software and are easily overloaded. States with newer infrastructure aren’t much better. Florida launched a new server in 2013 for 77 million dollars but has created a paper application because of the failure of online and phone servers in recent weeks.
These problems are a result of decades of policies by politicians, Democrats and Republicans alike. They have consistently funneled public funds towards big business interests and left social services to rot. The overloaded unemployment servers are a problem made by politicians, but it’s working people who have to do the impossible to get the bare minimum of help we deserve. It’s time we demand what we need—no applications, no wait times, in fact no unemployment, but a guaranteed job and decent life for all!