DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Many people are still struggling to file for unemployment benefits to help them weather the coronavirus pandemic. Lt. Governor Jon Husted says the state’s unemployment system has handled twice as many people in two weeks as it has over the past two years.
It’s harder than ever to get ahold of someone as offices are closed throughout the state. The Lt. Governor says reinforcements are on the way, but with bills racking up and rent coming due, every moment counts.
Lindsay Leary is trying to file for unemployment benefits. She says, “I’ve had two phones in my hands at 6:58 in the morning, ready to press send. It’ll still say due to high call volume, your call can’t go through.”
For weeks filers have been trying to call or chat with anyone who can help them navigate the state’s unemployment system. Lt. Governor Husted says, “The capacity of the system has been increased 20-times on the website, they’ve added 100 employees to the call center.”
But he says that’s not enough. It’s already evident to Lindsay. So far, Lindsay is lucky: her phone company waived her next bill, and the cable company is giving her a 60-day window to pay. And her landlord dropped her rent from $875 to $400 next month. But still, she says, “After this month, if this goes on for 4-6 months, I’m going to be lost.”
Lt. Governor Husted says 180 more people are being trained for the call center, and he reiterated benefits will be backdated to when you first became eligible to receive them.
Brian Roberts told us he was a researcher for Honda for 18 years before being laid off in September. He’s been applying for new jobs ever since, but his 26 weeks of unemployment benefits ran out this week. Roberts says, “There were a couple jobs here recently that the process was moving forward, but then I get emails saying it’s on a hold right now.”
Brian wants to work, but current conditions are unsafe for his disabled wife. “I don’t know how I’d feel going out and working around a lot of people and coming home and her immune system isn’t as great as a normal person’s is. I don’t imagine she’d fare well if she were to get this virus.”
Brian’s last check came last week. Lindsay’s last check was $85. She says, “I’m trying to keep it together, I’m trying not to panic. But it’s very emotionally… It drains you.”
Lt. Governor Husted says everyone who is raising concerns is being heard, and changes are being made. We requested an interview with Ohio Department of Job and Family Services Director Kimberly Hall, but they declined, saying she was too busy.
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