Sarah Hess and Matthew Games, who each spent months attempting to find out why their unemployment benefits had been incorrectly flagged for fraud, will both finally get the money they’re owed this week.
It took the personal intervention of their state labor departments to make it happen. Games, a Kentuckian who lost his banking job in April because of the pandemic, was forced to survive October through February with no income. Hess, a performer whose benefits were flagged when she moved from Ohio to Kentucky, said her 5-year-old son began trying to take care of her.
But both were happy on Tuesday afternoon.
“When we were talking before, my voice was cracking because I was so desperate,” Games said.
MEET SARAH AND MATTHEW: Unemployment problems still plaguing residents in Kentucky and Ohio
He got a $2,000 deposit on Monday and expects $3,000 more soon.
“You know, ‘when it rains it pours,’ but sometimes it happens in a really good way?” Hess said. “So, I have had news back to back to back — I’m talking medically, I’m talking career arenas. Just all, everything came together at the same time.”
She’ll get $5,000 Wednesday, she said.
Both had reached out to WCPO for help with their benefits in February after making hundreds of calls to their state unemployment agencies.
Hess, whose performances with fire made her a hot ticket at events such as Renaissance fairs, lost her income when almost all of those events were canceled in 2020. When her benefits were incorrectly flagged for a fraud investigation, her calls to the state of Ohio frequently went unanswered.
WCPO asked the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services to review her case. They discovered no evidence of fraud and approved all her pending payments.
Games lost his benefits without explanation in October and called the Kentucky Unemployment Insurance program sometimes dozens of times each day. He even contacted a state representative without success.
WCPO reached out to the Kentucky Labor Cabinet and the office of Gov. Andy Beshear, which agreed to review the situation. They discovered the error and restored the money Games had always been owed.
It’ll buy rent and groceries, both essentials. But it will also provide peace of mind, he said.
“I know a lot of people are in a much more dire straits than I, but you've given us something to believe in, and thanks to your efforts, a lot of people, I think, may find their way back,” he said. “I know I will.”
Both Games and Hess are actively interviewing for jobs. Games has two banking interviews this week; Hess is booking festivals but also hoping to utilize her non-flammable skills set in a steadier job as a jeweler.
To date, Courtney Francisco has helped free up more than $30,000 for Tri-State residents stuck in the system.
If you have questions or need help untangling a problem with your unemployment benefits, contact her at Courtney.Francisco@WCPO.com