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Californians battle swamped state phone lines to get jobless benefits

Unemployed workers seeking jobless benefits have overwhelmed state phone lines, leaving some frustrated callers to give up and instead pile into employment offices in hopes of speeding up the process.

Many callers say they've been unable to get through to the state Employment Development Department to file for unemployment insurance for days or weeks, facing busy signals or being cut off after waiting on hold when they finally did get through.

Richard Dziedzic, 28, returned to Sacramento after he was laid off from his job as a firefighter in Southern California before Christmas. Dziedzic said he spent six hours a day for two days trying to apply for unemployment insurance using the EDD's toll-free number.

He gave up, and on Wednesday morning traveled to an EDD office at 50th Street and Broadway. There, he waited in line for hours to use the telephones – and finally got through.

"I just couldn't get through at home," he said. "It was very frustrating."

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