Unemployment snag sends Cincy man on 5-week search for solution — without success

West Side man laid off during pandemic struggling with Ohio unemployment service

CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Cincinnati resident Wilbur Bobo lost his job last month when his company shut down due to Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s stay-at-home order.

That meant for the first time in his life — “The first time ever,” he says — Bobo had to file for unemployment.

Ohio Jobs and Family Services has paid out $1.5 billion in unemployment claims since the beginning of March. But after weeks of trying, Bobo has yet to receive a penny.

Bobo received confirmation for his initial benefits claim, but says shortly afterwards he received a ‘break-in claim’ notification.

In Ohio, if your claim shows as ‘break-in claim,’ you need staff intervention to fix it. Bobo was told to call (877) OHIO-JOB (1-877-644-6562) to speak with an agent to resolve the issue.

Now it’s five weeks Bobo has spent on the phone — on hold, dialing through Byzantine menus, twice getting through to an operator only to be informed they weren’t qualified to help him.

The issue remains.

On Thursday, Bobo went through his daily travail with FOX19 NOW at his side. No luck. The automated system does not even offer an option to speak to an unemployment agent or hold for one, leaving Bobo in OJFS purgatory.

Ohio JFS struggles to keep up demand with unemployment call center

OJFS Director Kimberly Hall announced Monday a new virtual call center to handle the 500,000 calls she says the agency receives each day. The new call center adds up to 1,600 agents to answer calls during the day.

The problem with the call center is the majority of the agents are not capable of answering “complex” questions with claims. The majority of the new agents can only answer simple questions and ask applicants to call back.

"Right now we're still at a point where individuals who have more complex questions or challenges with their claims still need to engage with their call center," Hall said. "Unfortunately it's not just anywhere, no state is, where they need to be in that space."

That has led to applicants spending hours calling the system back hoping to connect with one of the qualified agents, creating frustration and few answers for the 18 percent of the claims that are pending.

Hall added OJFS would need 4,000 agents simply to handle the call volume.

OJFS is considering a call-back option but does not have plans for that in the immediate future.

They told FOX19 NOW Friday they’re considering adding a ‘speak to an agent option.’

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