By: Leisa Zigman
KSDK -- There is sharp criticism aimed at Missouri's Department of Labor because viewers say no one is answering their calls about unemployment benefits.
The I-Team listened as St. Louisan Anne Etheredge tried to reach a human being at one of the call centers.
After a series of prompts, the automated voice says, all the lines are busy. Call back between 9am and 5pm Monday through Friday.
We spent the next hour trying to get through without success. Etheredge says it can sometimes take all day to reach someone. She's been unemployed since June.
Etheredge explained, "All you can do is try to get them over and over again. It's very upsetting and frustrating. You're already at a low point because you can't find a job. There is no prospect of a job and now you can't get any money."
The state used $3,000,000 stimulus dollars to hire 90 additional workers but officials admit there is a problem.
Amy Suson, a spokesperson with the Department of Labor explained, "We have over 7000 people calling each day. That is just how many we're answering. There may be thousands not able to get through on the call line."
Suson encourages people to file on-line. And, Etheredge says that works well if you don't make a mistake. If you do, your payment is in jeopardy and it could take weeks to resolve.
Suson adds the department is working on upgrades and will launch a new website the end of this month. She says it will be one stop shopping to file a claim, check on your payment status, change your payment status and more. She says the site will offer job tips and even show mock interviews. In addition, it will offer services like dressing for success, childcare assistance, carpooling, and ways to avoid foreclosure.
Etheredge hopes it is an improvement. "They're not trying hard enough...This is not something new, this has been going on for a year. It's time they cleared it up," She said.
In the meantime, 200, 000 people or 9.6% of Missouri residents currently receive unemployment benefits.