Wilfredo Erba’s story may sound familiar to those who’ve been laid off because of the COVID-19 crisis and tried to file for unemployment. Furloughed less than a month into a new job, he’s been trying for weeks to speak to a someone at the Department of Labor.
“No matter what I tried I couldn’t get through, the system wouldn’t work,” said Erba.
When he couldn’t get through to the Department of Labor, he tried his local unemployment office in Waterbury.
“When I try calling to that number it’s always go to voicemail which is full and it tells you cannot leave a voicemail because it’s full. So, I was never able to get in contact with anybody,” he said.
Online, Erba said he was told he had an open unemployment claim from 2015 and because the claim was never closed he couldn’t file a new one. Erba said he hasn’t received an unemployment check in over four years.
“I was just pretty worried,” he said.
As the sole bread winner of his family of six, he knew it wouldn’t be long before he couldn’t pay his bills.
“My account was pretty much now depleted,” said Erba. “I was planning to actually max out my credit cards as much as I could.”
First, Erba asked NBC Connecticut for help. We gave him this list of frequently asked questions from the Department of Labor, found within a PDF file on the state's website: https://www.ctdol.state.ct.us/
On page three, are phone numbers to workforce partner agencies. Another viewer told us she had success reaching someone at those numbers, eventually.
So did Erba.
“Hang up, call again, hang up, call again until finally I was able to get through,” he said.
On the 13th try, he was successful. Erba said his issue with the open claim was quickly fixed. Now he’s waiting for confirmation that his claim was accepted.
“At least I got a number that I know they’ll answer. That’s the only comforting part,” said Erba.
The agency has been overwhelmed by the sheer volume of claims filed since the middle of March. It is something the commissioner addressed in a news conference on Wednesday.
"Remember we have a 40-year-old Cobalt based system, which was simply not designed to accept this many claims," Department of Labor Commissioner Kurt Westby said. "We only had 20 people managing our claims unit at that time. As I said, we’ve really increased those numbers so every facet of our operation including those folks, the people who manage our webinar, the people who answer the phone, we’ve have been increasing staff. This tsunami has just overwhelmed everything we’ve had like it has in many, many states."