HARRISBURG -- Thousands of unemployed Pennsylvanians calling for help are getting busy signals instead.
These busy signals follow the layoff of more than 500 state workers who answered phone calls from the jobless to help them file unemployment claims.
The state laid off call workers and closed down three call centers when a four-year program that paid for them expired last month.
Governor Tom Wolf wanted to extend the program, but state senate Republicans claim the governor needs to be more specific about how it will be paid for.
In this standoff, many people trying to get unemployment benefits are stuck on hold.
David Fidler was laid off a week before Christmas. He spends his days making calls to the Pennsylvania unemployment helpline from his home near Pine Grove.
Fidler is a construction worker. He's never had problems filing for unemployment benefits during winter layoffs, but this winter, the Department of Labor and Industry found a problem with his application and asked him to call it's helpline.
He's tried hundreds of times in just the past week.
"It is a disservice to all the people who need this unemployment compensation," Fidler said.
The state Department of Labor and Industry has asked people to head to their CareerLink centers for help.
The one in Pottsville normally sees 10 people per day. In the past two weeks, it's averaged 40 a day seeking help.
Cindy Fisher of Schuylkill Haven went to use a special phone line that will connect her with someone to help with her unemployment filing. There are no busy signals but there is just one phone and a long wait to use it.
"I hope this is the last time I have to call," said Fisher. "It wipes your whole day out. I came here at 12 o'clock. It's now 3. It took my whole day again."
After waiting more than three hours, Cindy Fisher got her turn. A half hour later, the state awarded her unemployment.
But these hotlines are not available Wednesdays, Fridays, or weekends.
David Fidler fears if he doesn't straighten out his unemployment claim soon, he will lose two weeks of benefits.
"I feel cheated by the system that I paid into," said Fidler. "We don't know how long this is going to go on. This could be over an extended period because we can't get any answers."
The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry wants those who've been getting busy signals to go to its website.
It was recently updated with answers to some of the newer questions people seeking benefits are asking.