First it was almost impossible to apply for unemployment benefits.
Now, many people who've applied have hit another snag: they've been denied. Or they have filled out all the required forms, but nothing has shown up in well over a month.
If you are out of work, even just temporarily, you are supposed to receive unemployment benefits.
But many people who have applied have still not seen a dime from the state of Ohio or Kentucky, or the federal government, which is offering an extra $600 per week under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program (PUA) and Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program (PUC).
Laid-off workers struggle with no benefits
Jamell Jordan was grocery shopping with his new baby at the Kroger in downtown Cincinnati. He can't afford a sitter because his supplemental unemployment benefits are held up.
"I'm supposed to be getting $600 a week now, 'cause there's an extra $600, but I have not yet to receive anything," he said.
Mike Mcfarland also hit a snag in his bid to get benefits. "I believe that because I filed an appeal a year ago, that appeal was never processed, but it blocked me from filing again," he said.
Many of the millions laid off are still waiting for unemployment benefits to kick in.
Denied, denied, denied
Tony White runs the "Ladies and Gents" barber shop on Colerain Avenue in Camp Washington.
"This is hard, this is hard, it really is," he said.
He doesn't have enough money to make his shop coronavirus safe, with proper partitions and sanitizing, since it has been closed for two months.
But he says he was rejected for state benefits, for being self-employed, and not part of a larger company.
"I applied for unemployment back in March," he said. "They left me waiting up till the end of April just to say, 'Hey you are denied.'"
He also applied for federal pandemic assistance for the self-employed, under the PUA program, but says that request went nowhere.
"They turned me down flat for that," he said.
The big problem the first few weeks of the crisis was just getting on state websites, or getting through on the phones, and filing an application.
With that mostly resolved, the big issue now is applying and being told you do not qualify.
Why so many are rejected
The financial website Motley Fool says reasons for rejection include:
- You didn't earn enough in 2019 to qualify (each state has a monthly minimum).
- You recently switched jobs, or were between jobs when everything shut down.
- You quit your job voluntarily out of health or safety concerns.
- Most of your income was cash or tips, such as restaurant servers, bartenders, auto detailers, and others who rely on tips.
Labor attorney Arthur Schofield says to appeal a denial immediately, directly on the state website.
"if you don't file an appeal, you're not going to be able to get your benefits," he said.
But if you are self-employed, he says, go back and reapply, due to new federal money now available. What was denied a month ago may be approved right now.
Can't get through on the state unemployment hotline? WCPO's Paola Suro has a report on ways to reach a live human.
Tony White will reapply, but is running out of energy.
"I've applied for everything, just to hear nothing," he said.
If you are denied benefits, the key is to appeal it as soon as possible, Scofield says, as backlogs are beginning to develop.
File your appeal online, and mail a paper letter to the state unemployment office as a backup.
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