An unemployed tech worker couldn’t get through to the state unemployment department, which is a common frustration for many who are out-of-work during the pandemic, so he decided to use his skills to do something about it.
Unemployed workers are dialing EDD every day -- sometimes several times a day -- but they’re not getting through to a real live person.
David Harris in South Pasadena is one of those workers.
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“It would just say, 'our lines are too busy, call back at another time.' So you had to keep doing that," he said.
Harris lost his job in March, but says he still hasn’t gotten any money.
"We had to use all our savings. It’s just about gone. It’s been tough," he said.
He says getting through to EDD has been impossible. His story is familiar to Andre Woodley.
“I kept trying to call, kept trying to call," he said.
When the former tech worker in San Francisco couldn’t get through to EDD, he created a bot - an automated program - to start dialing for him.
“I went ahead and just spinned up a bot. Built it in like 30 minutes. Launched it, and was able to connect within five minutes," Woodley said.
And you can use his bot too - for just $30. He’s started a business called Auto Dial.
Here’s how it works:
- After you sign up, you go about your day as Auto Dial tries to connect you with EDD.
- You’ll even get text updates.
- When a state worker is queued up, your phone will ring.
So what’s the secret?
Woodley said he’s figured out that EDD plays two different recordings when people call. One recording means you’ll never get through to a live person, and a different recording means you will.
His bot calls repeatedly, possibly thousands of times, until it hears the recording that will connect you to a live person.
"You’re on hold there for about five to 10 minutes to speak to a rep," he said.
So is his bot making the EDD situation worse?
He says no. The only thing the bot is tying up is the useless recording that gets you nowhere, and his bot simply acts as a real-life caller who wants to talk with EDD.
"It’s the same as an agent or someone calling on your behalf, like a family member saying ‘hey, I’m going to call [for] you,’ it’s the same as that," he said.
As for Harris, he doesn’t need the bot right now -- he got help from his state assembly member, who escalated his case with EDD.
But he feels the pain of so many others who say the state is failing them.
"If I had to say something, it probably wouldn’t be nice," he said.
NBCLA reached out to EDD but didn’t hear back. The federal government doesn’t like auto dialers, so NBCLA asked the FCC about the bot, but it declined to comment.