This article was last updated on February 7
It’s no surprise that the high volume of pandemic-related unemployment benefit inquiries has overwhelmed some states’ call centers and websites, leading to delays and thousands stuck in limbo with the status of their claim and no idea when they will get their current and past benefits. Some are waiting on several thousands of dollars and are deep in debt as they wait for the money that is due to them.
I recently received the following email from a reader which summarized this sad state of affairs. I was able to research some of the reasons behind her issue and potential next steps so thought I could share this with others in a similar situation. Maybe this will help or give a little hope in these difficult times.
I tried filing in December  so I could backdate to March  and the system was down. So I called and actually got a representative and she told me that it was OK once it came back up I could file for backpay all the way to March 2020 but when the system came back up my application that was already in the system had a date changed to this year 2021 saying I could only go back to December 6 . I am crumbling at the thought of what I’m going to do and then I can’t get the back pay is there anyway I can do that?
Based on some advice I saw on your site I then contacted my state rep and her assistant said that she sent over my identification and appeal documents to their liaison at the state UI agency and I should be getting a call from the them; that was last Monday and I still haven’t gotten a call. Also she told me that other than getting confirmation that the liaison has received the paperwork they didn’t hear anything else back, which I take to mean that there’s nothing else that they can do or will do.
I also talked with the states federal representative’s office and they said they would check in with my state rep to see what was going on but other than that no other assistance was offered.
The difference between somebody helping me to be able to recover last year‘s PUA from March forward, which would include the emergency relief as well, versus no help, is the difference between being able to maintain my living arrangements with my children and staying afloat versus being unable to pay any of my payments: mortgage, car, insurance credit cards, taxes ….anything. I am and have been actively pursuing finding a job and will continue to do so. I just don’t want to sink into a deeper hole which will have a ripple of fact and make it even harder to get back on my feet. The longer I stay out of work the harder it is for me to find a job as the employers look on favorably upon the gap in employment. Do you have any further insight into how I can help my situation?
So here are something things the reader in the above example (and others in a similar situation) needs to be aware of an potential options to get some traction on their claim:
- Under new guidelines passed in the CAA, CVOID Relief Bill 2020, that extended PUA and PEUC benefits by 11-weeks, a new clause was put in that limited backdating of claims to the first week of December 2020 (this would be the week ending 12/6 would be the first week in most states). This means that if you are pursuing a claim for retroactive enhanced benefits in 2020, which would have been funded under the CARES act, you need to ensure that your claim filing date accounts for that. This can only be done manually in most states via mail/fax. For example in IL, IDES has stated that If you were unable to file your claim because of capacity or system limitations, you will have an opportunity to discuss backdating your claim with a representative by calling the state UI agency.
- In the above example the claimant did the right thing by calling their state representative’s office since they were not getting any traction via their state UI agency. But state representatives are no less busy with unemployment and other COVID related issues. I would suggest you stay persistent and keep contacting them until you hear something. Patience and persistence will pay off.
- Since the Federal Government and Department of Labor (DOL) are setting guidelines for the enhanced unemployment programs many are trying to call them. However per the DOL site they have stated that the federal government has no authority to intervene in individual claims for benefits. They also confirmed claimants should contact the state unemployment insurance office handling your claim. So not much help there.
- You can find some state UI agency contact numbers and alternative means to contact them as well. Please also see the comments for tips people are recommending like calling at a certain time of day, bypassing the call center reps or using a second language option. Social media has proved helpful for some, but again that will likely only help with general or overarching program questions. For case or claim specific items you need to get in touch with a state agent who can see your specific details and address issues that directly impact you
- Also be aware that in many states reporting that the PUA and PEUC 11-week extensions are rolled out, there are several cases where certain claimant groups are unable to have the extra weeks automatically added to their claims due to complications with their situation that require further and/or manual processing by state UI agencies. Unfortunately thousands of claimants across many states are facing this situation and are stuck in limbo while they wait for state agents to process the backlog of claims and inquires that require manual intervention.