Let’s Talk . . . Unemployment

My absence has been long, but I am back. Today and for the next few months I’ll be sharing stories and using my platform to bring awareness to the absolute injustice of the unemployment system throughout our country and especially within Wisconsin. I will share documents, discuss policy, and most importantly impress the goal of our mission: #PEOPLEoverPolitics.

To help you understand what is happening. When our country shutdown, billions of people filed for unemployment across the nation. No system was ready for the sudden explosion of a million claims a day. The following is the story of one individual. She finally received her benefits on June 10, 2020. She is not alone, and there are hundreds of thousands that continue to wait for benefits they deserve.

“Claim Finally Approved!!! I want to talk about my experience navigating through unemployment. I apologize this post is very long, but I felt it was important to share and for the support group to read in its entirety. My journey through WI Unemployment due to the pandemic: Regular Unemployment.

I relocated to GA January 2020. ALL my wages are from WI as I had lived there and worked there all my life. So, I had to file my claim in WI. I filed on 3/27 after being laid off from my current employer due to COVID. A claim specialist contacted me on 3/30 to take some information regarding my claim. A few days later checked online and claim was pending review by adjudication 3/30. The issues were two “quits” the quit from my employer in WI to relocate here & the other a quit from a previous employer here to take a better job.

After about 3 weeks of waiting I contacted unemployment for update regarding my claim. I was informed, by a somewhat rude man, that a requalifying wage questionnaire was being mailed out to me. The form was mailed out on 4/23 but did not arrive until 4/27. I immediately filled it out, attached paystubs, faxed/mailed back as form stated. The form was to see if I earned enough to requalify for benefits. Since I quit in Wisconsin to relocate, I had to requalify for benefits. I earned enough in wages from current employer laid off from to requalify. That issue was entered in as “quit, requalified before benefits claimed”.

Now I still have the other “quit” pending review by adjudicator. Even though I requalified I was still informed I needed to wait for adjudicator to contact me regarding the quit from previous employer. I called mid-May for update and was informed no one had been assigned to my case yet. I also was sent a letter stating to call a claim specialist due to a different name of current employer reported verses the one I listed. I immediately called and was finally able to get through to correct the information. They had the payroll name instead of the employer’s name. I was SO frustrated with UI I thought to myself I am NOT going to call anymore. I will continue to try and wait patiently.

However, I read some post on the support group stating that they called and eventually got their case resolved. I decided to call on June 1st. I called using the phone number 414-438-7702 on Monday June 1st. I was number 194 and held on for 2 1/2 hours. I spoke with a claim’s specialist. She asked me the name of my employer from which the “quit” was from. (Now mind you this information was giving to the very first claim’s specialist I spoke with on 3/30). I gave her the information again. AGAIN, due to the name difference of the employer & the agency they used to process their payroll that was the issue with getting the employer’s correct name. Finally, she was able to locate my employer in GA.

She put the information in & stated I was NOT assigned to an adjudicator yet and could be up to end of June, early July to hear back. My mouth dropped! Side note – the claim specialist was chewing/popping gum & continuously yawning while speaking with me. I thought in my head…. how unprofessional. But of course, I was not going to say anything to harm the call. But I did say…you must be tired with a little laugh. It sounded like she was working from the comfort of her home, without a care in the world regarding what I was going through. I informed the specialist that I have been waiting since the end of March. She informed me how behind they were. I said okay and just tried to be as nice as possible. I said thank you and ended the call. Although she did type this information in the system I felt like I was NEVER going to get my benefits.

The next day (June 2nd) I got a call that went straight to voice mail. I listened to it. It was an adjudicator. My phone did not ring & there was NO missed call symbol. I do not have any spamware on my phone. So how it went straight to voice mail is beyond me. Anyway, she left her name & callback number. She said I had 48 hours to respond. I called back immediately, no answer. I left a message. I continued to callback, no answer. I did not leave another message that day. I called back the next day (June 3rd) several times.

Finally, she answered. She questioned me regarding the reason I quit my previous employer. She seemed to try to twist my words regarding what I had told her about the reason I quit. I had to tell her excuse me, let me be clear….She was acting as if I was NOT allowed to quit a job. I gave notice and knew I could take a better job offer. Plus, I had the new job before I quit. The adjudicator that took my case was not a pleasant adjudicator at all. She was really trying to be rough. But I knew I had done nothing wrong regarding the quit and the employer could NOT say otherwise. I knew I had done right before I quit. She asked me to fax paystubs from current employer to her personal fax. I informed her I faxed paystubs back in April when I did the requalifying wage questionnaire. She stated she did not see them. (OMG….me in my head).

I immediately faxed them (more money that I did not have to spend because I am unemployed & I faxed this information already). She informed me she would have a decision in 5-7 days. Expect a letter in the mail however it will be online first. Continue to file weekly clam. I just looked this morning (June 10th) and found out my claim had been approved and was paid out into my bank account. I got on my knees to thank GOD without him I could NOT have survived this horrible ordeal.

This was one of the most brutal things I have ever encountered! The system was so COLD. I felt so vulnerable without income. The 11 week wait, the constant worrying about things that needed to get paid, the not knowing if I would ever get benefits paid, the long hours on hold trying to speak with some, some of the uncaring attitudes/unprofessionalism of some of those whom answered the line, the constant run around and different things told by some of the people who answered the lines…etc..

I called/emailed the governor, reps, senator, congresswoman, assemblyman. I even emailed Nancy Pelosi & President Trump out of desperation. Everyone responded but with a generic email. I honestly felt that all that was useless (maybe/maybe not)? I feel they did NOT get to my case any sooner. The only thing I think helped me was calling. I called Monday spoke with claim specialist. All the sudden got a call from adjudicator Tuesday! Applied 3/27 and Approved 6/9. Claim paid out in its entirety on 6/10.

Unbelievable! I am SO grateful & thankful through GOD is the only way I got my benefits. I put this whole situation in his hands as I could not bare it all anymore. I was planning on getting a house before the virus hit. I was blessed to be able to stay at my apartment, however I will now need to move to a different apartment due to my lease is up & current apartment now rented. I blew through pretty much all my savings & credit card trying to stay afloat.

So yes, I am happy this ordeal is finally over, but my spirit has suffered so badly through this unemployment nightmare. How can you TRULY be happy after going through this? I am NUMB. I NEVER want to see this nightmare again. My employer will be calling me back at this point I am most happy NOT to have to constantly check my claim and see the same information for months! I am most happy NOT to be so worried & see more grey hair each morning. Mental health slowing declining even though I fight to stay strong. I am most happy to be able to pay my rent, bill’s & credit card now.

I will save the rest of the funds. There is NO way I would spend foolishly. Especially with all I had to go through. I have worked ever since I was 17 years old. I am close to 50 years old now. I am entitled to my unemployment benefits. My claim was legitimate. I felt degraded during this process. I have only used unemployment once in my life in 2013 (three payments). It was not my fault then & it surely is not my fault now! I know there are people that they must watch out for that look to fraud the system, however Wisconsin is being so tough on the people that have legitimate claims. Wisconsin unemployment system did NOT help me in a timely manner, AT ALL.

This system had ruined so many people’s livelihood/financial stability. Shame on you! Even though you had an unprecedented number of claims there is NO excuse for this & it is unacceptable. This is NOT a joke; this is people’s lives. I know for sure that Wisconsin’s Unemployment does NOT care…. business as usual. Yes there have been resources to help during this crisis (thank goodness), however if UI would have acted sooner we may not have not needed them. The unemployment process has caused many depression, anxiety, mental health, substance abuse…etc. No updates. Confusing wording. Keeping people in dark about their claims. No clear answers. Difficult to understand determinations. Denying of people who do not call within given timeframe as they are unable to get through the phone lines. Trouble getting through to speak to a person regarding claim. Some people that did answer the phones displayed poor customer service. Many people have never filed for unemployment in their lives. This is partially why some people claims were messed up. You must do as much research regarding unemployment in regard to your own situation to get answers.”

There is nothing I can say that could be as effective as my friend. Please, do what you can to support the people around you that are enduring this injustice. It is not reserved for any particular race, class, or location. This pathetic display of poor leadership has spread far and wide.