Time and again, the male voice delivers the same message, first in English, then Spanish: “Due to unexpected high volume, we are unable to answer your call. Please try again later.” Then the call goes dead.
San Diego County rolled out its phone line more than two years ago, a number that people applying for benefits like food stamps, welfare or health coverage could call to start or update their applications. It was meant to cut delays and help those who couldn’t afford to take time off from low-paying jobs to spend hours sitting in a county waiting room. But since it was introduced, callers have often faced long hold times, if their calls get answered at all.
Last year, prompted by criticism for running one of the least successful food-stamp programs in the nation, the county Board of Supervisors asked a committee of county officials and advocates for the poor to make recommendations for improvement. The committee identified the call line as one of many problems that had contributed to the county’s food-stamp enrollment being the lowest in the nation.