Takes Seconds To Get Help On Unemployment Phone Line If You Speak Spanish; For English …

DENVER (CBS4) – The federal pandemic unemployment benefits of $600 a week ends Friday, yet thousands of people who filed months ago haven’t received those benefits while they were in effect. Several frustrated people are having to wait weeks for a callback appointment to speak to a real person for help with their unemployment claim, but CBS4 Investigates found if you speak Spanish, you can get help with your unemployment claim in seconds.

(credit: CBS)

When Eric Graff tried to get answers about his unemployment claim today in English, he got an automated message telling him to keep his callback appointment he’s had scheduled for the last couple of weeks – set for August 6. But when he pressed two for Spanish, he got through to a real person within seconds.

However, the agent on the line told him the line is only for Spanish speakers, and abruptly transferred him back to the automated English line.

Graff filed for unemployment back in March, and hasn’t gotten any unemployment money since.

“We’re really going to start hurting soon,” Graff said. “I understand the flood of unemployment, and I thought I had been pretty patient with everything. I see on the news the hundreds of thousands, millions of people out of work, I get it, but four months I think is patient enough.”

Graff said he believes the help line system should be more equitable, for all languages.

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“The language you speak should be irrelevant, really, I think it should be the same for everybody across the board, and English people shouldn’t get a favoritism either, it should be the same for everybody, that’s why I brought up Armenian, Japanese, whatever you speak, it should not be a determining factor in how much help you get,” Graff said.

He wonders if he should have spent the last four months learning Spanish, so he could get the help he needs.

“If unemployment would like me to learn Spanish, I’m happy to learn Spanish if that’s the requirement,” Graff said.

Other frustrated people agree.

Brittney Kennedy says she can’t get an English callback appointment until September, but she needs her money now.

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“I’ve got a baby to raise,” Kennedy said. “Very stressed out, you know, you need money, we’re in the middle of a pandemic here, and at least for me personally, my job still isn’t open, it’s frustrating.”

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment was unavailable for an interview Friday, but provided a written statement to CBS4 that reads: “At present there are far fewer demands for Spanish speaking assistance, though the average wait time is 20 minutes. Our focus is to provide a means of service access to all customers regardless of the language they speak. Within the next month it is the vision to bring both English and Spanish speaking onto the same Virtual Agent and callback system and we are transitioning to that new state.”

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