Many Americans are still waiting to receive their unemployment checks. Having lived through this with a relative, I know how hard it is and how desperate and frustrated you can get while you wait and wait and wait. My relative, Mike, tried calling his state unemployment office, and waited 6 hours only to be disconnected as they transferred him to the person who could help him. He would try to call some days and could not even get in the queue to wait on hold. The message just said, “the unemployment department has been overwhelmed with calls, try the website or call back.” He felt so powerless.
One day, I listened to a radio show with state and federal legislators answering questions. Able to ask them a question on the air, I asked about the unemployment problem my relative, and many others were experiencing. My local State Representative said, “call my office, and I can help you solve this issue.” So Mike did just that, and they reached unemployment and got Mike connected to a lady at unemployment who solved his filing issues. Five days later, Mike got a large check for all the past-due unemployment monies due to him.
I thought most of the unpaid unemployment issues had been resolved by now, and states were doing a better job. Then two days ago, I got this email from Joe, a Baby Boomer, who is self-employed. He wrote to say:
“I’ve filed claims for 19 weeks of Oregon and Federal Stimulus Unemployment and haven’t seen a dime. I initially filed in the old system, then filed all weeks into the PUA system, starting when my business ended due to COVID. All I get is a computer-generated note saying I don’t qualify due to ‘a question about your self-employment.’ So I call. I cannot get through to anyone at the Unemployment Office, despite dozens and dozens of tries, as it is constantly a busy signal. Help!”
I gave Joe the same advice I gave Mike who had filed for ten weeks with no money and no explanation of what was wrong. Here are the steps to carefully follow.
1. You need to find your local STATE congressman. You can do that at openstates by entering your address.
2. Call the appropriate STATE legislator that represents you. They verify you live in their district, so be sure to reach out to the appropriate congressperson. Emails seem to take longer to get a response, so calling is faster as members of State Legislatures have people answering their phones.
3. Tell them your problem with unemployment and ask for their help. The congressmen’s office will have a designated person inside their office who handles unemployment issues. That person will tell you that they can connect to unemployment on your behalf and that they have been assigned a real person at the unemployment office to work with. They get you info, and then they work their magic. You’ll find that they either fix the problem or get someone who can fix it at unemployment to call you. Give them a number you will answer. If it is your cell, be sure the ringer is on as unemployment will only call you once or twice, and if you miss them, there is no number to call them back. Do not miss the call.
4. The problem should get resolved within a week, and all the money due you will then be paid to you retroactive to the day you first filed for unemployment.
Hopefully, you have been filing since the day you became unemployed, or in Joe’s case since he was self-employed, he became eligible due to the CARES act. The payment period goes forward from the day you first filed. So if you lost your job on May 5th and you were filing since May 5, than May 5th is your eligibility date. But if you just filed now on July 1st, you lose all those weeks you were unemployed between May 5 – July 1 because you did not file immediately Unemployment starts on the date you file not on the date you lost your job.
Joe emailed to say this strategy of contacting his state representative worked for him. It worked for my relative too, and the other ten people I have advised to try it. They were in different states, and it has been effective. Once your unemployment money starts, you file each week and get paid. Problem solved.
For more information on getting paid if you are self-employed, an Independent Contractors, or Gig-Economy Worker this Forbes article is helpful : Unemployment Benefits For The Self-Employed, Independent Contractors, And Gig-Economy Workers: Lawyer On The Front Lines Answers Common Questions