MOUNT HEALTHY, Ohio — LaVada Bell is a single mom of two junior high school students in Mount Healthy who is trying to draw hope from the fact that she's been able to work since she was their age.
“I’ve worked my entire life since I’ve been like 14, so I’m really not used to not working. So it’s definitely different," Bell told WCPO.
The paralegal said she was laid off from her job just before the pandemic hit and subsequently has had to stay home with her son and daughter since last spring because their school has yet to return to in-person learning.
“Now with them being at home and homeschooling, most of my day is dedicated to that,” Bell said.
The at-home learning required of her children meant Bell qualified for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, also known as PUA. She shared with us the weekly amounts that she is due to be paid through the PUA benefit but said she cannot get an answer from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services as to why none of this PUA money has arrived.
“You’re looking at being on the phone with unemployment for up to four hours a day just to get someone who says they’re just newly hired and they can’t really tell you anything…and the people who can are unavailable,” Bell said.
Because she's never been wired to wait for something to come to her, Bell said she found an opportunity to take a class online to obtain a notary license.
“I’m just trying to market and get myself out there where I can make enough money to pay all these bills, “ Bell said.
Business has been slow to start and Bell worries her inability to pay her car note will result in her losing the transportation she needs in order to be a mobile notary.
She has been going through her savings quickly.
“Bills are recurring every single day and telling them, 'OK, well I do receive unemployment I’ll be getting soon,' they’re not receptive of that,” Bell said.
Bell said she ironically once worked for the unemployment office and never saw the problems then that she's seeing now.
“I would like for unemployment to fix their system to make sure that the people who need the money actually get it,” Bell said.
A spokesperson for ODJFS tells WCPO the agency cannot speak about specific cases, but the agency has agreed to help resolve cases WCPO brings to the agency’s attention. We have requested intervention in Bell’s case.
In the meantime, Bell said she has enjoyed having more time with her children, but needs to be able to provide for them, and she will continue to model a positive attitude for them as she grows her new business, waits and hopes.
“I just have to believe there’s a positive way out of this,” Bell said. “And then I know I can turn around one day and be, like, “Whew! I made it through that.”