Editors Note: 1:28 PM CST on 7.15.2021 a correction was published. We had erroneously posted that there were only four call centers when there are six Convo Relay call centers that are still open.
Due to the ongoing national COVID-19 emergency, the Telecommunications Relay Services was granted a temporary waiver that removes certain TRS rules governing the industry. Deaf Vee Journal reported that the waiver was granted on March 16, 2020. This temporary waiver was then updated on August 26, 2020, which was slated to end November 30, 2020.
On October 2, 2020, the Federal Communications Commission [FCC] released a 62-page document dated September 30, 2020 that covered the adoption of Internet Protocol Captioned Telephone Service Rates through June 30, 2022. This document also covers the TRS COVID-19 Pandemic waiver.
On page 54, under the section entitled “Extension of COVID-19 Related TRS Waiver,” the FCC set a motion to extend the waiver through February 28, 2021:
In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, on our own motion, we extend through February 28, 2021, the temporary waivers of certain rules governing TRS. As a result of the pandemic and states’ responsive emergency regulations, TRS traffic levels have increased, and providers’ ability to staff call centers has been sharply reduced, severely challenging providers’ ability to answer and process TRS calls. (FCC-20-132A1)
The most recent extension was passed as of February 18, 2021. The Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau of the Federal Communications Commission, on its own motion, extended the waiver through August 31, 2021. It is now July 14, 2021 and people are waiting to see if the FCC grants another extension since there are some companies that are well over the percent of staff allowed to work from home under the regulations that are currently waived.
Sorenson is currently recruiting interpreters from other Video Relay Service companies and still preparing to allow for the work-from-home option as part of their contract with those said interpreters. Sorenson continues to let their inflated loan grow as their investors appear to be focused on other priorities. Purple/ZVRS closed their headquarters office in Rocklin, California and made Austin, Texas their new headquarters location. Purple has shown no indicator of what they’re doing with their interpreters since their IT department spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours mailing equipment to interpreters at the height of the pandemic. Convo Relay has 80% percent of their interpreters working from home and this is above the allowed percentage. Out of their initial call centers only New York City (NY), Burnsville (MN), ( Austin (TX), Toledo (OH), Pleasanton (CA), and Rochester (NY) remain, and it is suspected that the Pleasanton call center will be shut down shortly.