Fighting phone lines trying to reach someone in the ESD office

SPOKANE, Wash. — Thousands of people in Spokane County have filed for unemployment benefits during the pandemic. According to some, however, filing is only half the battle. Some told 4 News Now, they’re fighting phone lines to speak to someone to get any problems resolved.

Over at Washington’s employment security department, phones lines are packed with people. Some advice from a couple people who finally got through, be patient.

1-800-318-6022 is Washington ESD’s phone number—the one many are calling right now.

Chances are, if you call the ESD number, you’ll hear a message that tells you they are experiencing a high call volume and it asks you to try again later. At the end of the message, it hangs up the call; the twelve-second audio recording so many Washingtonians have listened to over and over again.

You can see where some frustration can arise.

“I called over 100 times before I got to a point where I was on hold, at which point, I was on hold for almost six consecutive hours,” said Jessica Marcella, who spent all Monday trying to reach someone at the ESD office.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the amount of people without a job right now, the phone line is extremely busy.

“So I started calling around the 10 o’clock hour and was not completely satisfied until around 5:15 in the evening,” Marcella said.

Marcella is a medical assistant without work right now. She said she was calling because there was a discrepancy in her file showing she was getting retirement benefits.

“I was very confused. I don’t receive retirement pay, I’m 31,” Marcella said.

She has, like many others, kids to support. She needed to get the problem fixed fast. But it took her a nearly a full day on the phone.

“I even texted my mom and said – I am so scared that by the time 4 o’clock rolls by, I’m not going to get hung up on and I’m not going to talk to anybody,” Marcella said.

ESD was able to fix the issue once she got through to someone. She’s not the only one with a daunting phone experience.

“I know I called from my phone around 370 [times]. Think I called from my mom’s phone about 180 [times],” said Sarah Elmore, who was calling for her mother, who was having issues getting payments.

After 576 phone calls, the problem was fixed.

“Just be persistent, don’t give up. Have some snacks and a phone charger. Go for it,” Marcella said.

Some advice from Elmore and Marcella, give yourself time and know the hours of operation. If you try calling before they close, you might not get anyone and have to try again the next business day.