Verizon agrees to a rebate for California jobless recording

SACRAMENTO — California has reached a deal to cut — but not eliminate — the million-dollar phone bills it has racked up for the recorded messages that play on its unemployment insurance call center lines when operators can't handle all incoming calls.

The deal between Verizon and the Employment Development Department, if it receives final approval, would give EDD an estimated $2.6 million credit or refund to be used against future phone bills.

The Bee reported last month that each time a jobless person calls to file an unemployment insurance claim and no EDD operator is available, the call is routed to a recorded message – and Verizon is paid 5 cents.

Desperate callers trying to reach EDD have dialed the unemployment call centers' toll-free lines more than 100 million times since October, costing the state $4.4 million for the messages since December.

The deal, which is retroactive to Jan. 1 and must be signed off on by the Department of General Services, reduces the fees on the recorded message when certain call volumes are reached, spokesman Eric Lamoureux said.

The deal comes weeks before Assembly hearings into EDD operations and contracts set for next month. The hearings were prompted by reports in The Bee that led to public anger about the messages' cost coupled with short resources for state unemployment insurance call centers.

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