5-Cent Message Costs State Millions of Dollars

LOS ANGELES -- A recorded message that costs the state about 5 cents per failed call adds up to millions of dollars, according to an article by Andrew McIntosh of the Sacramento Bee newspaper.

McIntosh wrote that the state's unemployment insurance call centers have been bombarded with calls -- 25.6 million in December and an estimated 42 million in January. Callers can dial a toll-free number to receive assistance with an insurance claim.

Verizon receives 5 cents from the Employment Development Department for each failed call. Instead of a busy signal, the caller hears a recorded message that informs them callers are busy.

McIntosh wrote that state call center records show the service has cost taxpayers $6 million since 2004. The service has cost $4.9 million since the beginning of 2008, an EDD spokeswoman told the newspaper.

"You've gotta to be kidding. Is that an appropriate use of department funds? What's wrong with a busy signal?" Jon Coupal, of the Sacramento-based Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, told the newspaper. "EDD should be immediately acting to stop the bleeding. If they can pull the plug on this service, they should. They need to look for ways to save money, not spend it like this."

Click here for a link to the department's Web site.

Click here to read McIntosh's story.

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