By Kaitlin Stansell | April 16, 2020 at 6:30 PM EDT - Updated April 17 at 7:19 AM
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - One state lawmaker has suggested her constituents should try a controversial alternative to get their unemployment questions answered faster.
“I’ve now heard from two constituents that if you’re trying to get unemployment, you will get a live person on the phone faster with DEW if you press the button that you speak Spanish,” Senator Sandy Senn said in a Facebook post. “I think it’s worth giving it a try, share this, and hey, Hola right? Let me know if it works.”
In recent weeks, many newly, unemployed South Carolinians have reported hours-long wait times to reach a representative with the state’s Department of Employment and Workforce over the phone.
Senn said she’s also been overwhelmed with calls for help. She has since turned her followers to a possible trick to the system she learned from some of her own constituents.
“You know the person on the other end of the phone actually speaks English, so it’s a little way around the system,” Senn said.
Some have called her recommendation inappropriate, but Senn maintained her concerns are about helping people who had been living paycheck to paycheck before their jobs were suddenly cut due to the coronavirus.
“I don’t think it’s right that just because you’re able to speak Spanish you’re able to get to a DEW representative immediately. What they need to do is just expand more English-speaking representatives I suppose so that other people can get through,” Senn said. “It dumbfounds me that it’s okay for Spanish speaking people to get their problems with unemployment resolved faster. That doesn’t make any sense. I think we should all be able to get these issues resolved fast, and I would just disagree with anyone who thinks otherwise.”
However, a test of Senn’s suggestion revealed the same message many people have encountered no matter what line they’ve tried.
“The SCDEW is currently experiencing high call volumes, and we are currently working to expedite response times,” the recorded phone message said.
A spokesperson said SCDEW’s bilingual customer service representatives are dedicated to assisting the state’s residents who only speak Spanish and need assistance over the phone.
“Please understand that the ratio of these bilingual agents are much smaller compared to the majority of our call center staff working the phones,” SCDEW’s spokesperson Heather Biance said. “If an individual calls this extension as an English speaking resident, they may be put back into the queue so our CSR’s can assist claimants for whom this dedicated extension is intended. However, when they are not on the call with Spanish-speaking South Carolinians, they are helping the general call center lines.”
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