In response to surging demands for unemployment benefits - and following a pointed prod from a state legislator - California's Employment Development Department has announced it will open 25 of its offices around the state on Saturday. Call centers will also be open that day to take calls from filers.
Click here for the list of offices that will be open Saturdays.
California is only the latest state to make changes to the way it processes unemployment applications, in order to keep up with demand. Indiana has been training librarians and community groups, while Tennessee has been holding mass unemployment claim sessions to help filers.
The rapid rise in unemployment that began last year has translated into huge jumps in the number of people filing for benefits in nearly every state. Many states - including California - have experienced breakdowns of computer and telephone filing systems. I recently visited a One-Stop Career Center in the L.A. area, and in the brief time I was in the reception area nearly every other person in line was seeking help filing for unemployment. And the One-Stops don't even handle that. People had gone there because they had nowhere else to turn.
For many Californians calling to file for unemployment or to get updates on their status, they're put on hold for hours, or they get a message saying the phone lines are full and to call back later. Sometimes they get both. EDD says the best way to file for unemployment is online.
EDD is also reports (PDF) it has directed unemployment staff to work overtime, boosted its computer systems and is hiring 400 additional staff. Currently, the state is paying $77 million per day to out-of-work Californians.
If you're having trouble getting through to unemployment, experts suggest contacting your state elected officials. If you're laid off, be sure to keep any paperwork or other information about the layoff, because an increasing number of employers are challenging unemployment claims.
For more help and resources for getting back to work in California, visit the Cal Workforce Association's BackToWork.org site.
Do you know of efforts by other states to improve how unemployment claims are processed?