Where’s my unemployment money? The wait for answers is long

Louisiana

A pedestrian walks by The Framing Gallery, closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

The workforce commission says part of the problem is people calling multiple times a day, which is jamming up the phone lines.

NEW ORLEANS (WWL-TV) — In all of 2019, the Louisiana Workforce Commission paid out $154 million in unemployment.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak in March, the agency says it has paid out $3.9 billion in state and federal money. The growing number of people in need has led to growing problems, such as delayed payments and an influx of calls to the workforce commission — and wait times of up to two hours in some instances as anxious people call to find out the status of their payments.

The workforce commission says part of the problem is people calling multiple times a day, which is jamming up the phone lines.

Robert Wooley, the assistant secretary for unemployment benefits, said the agency is asking people to limit the number of times they call.

“We only fund the payments once a day. So if you called in the morning and they said it wasn’t ready then it’s not going to be ready in the afternoon,” he said.

There are new rules these days at the workforce commission which are to blame for delays, Wooley said. Independent contractors like Julie Barrilleaux, who don’t get a W-2, can now apply for unemployment.

“I am an independent contractor. I am a travel advisor,” said Barrilleaux, who runs Thibodaux-based Gateway 2 Fun Travel. “So needless to say, there’s nothing happening. I lost everything for the entire year.”

Barrilleaux is among the more than 700,000 out-of-work people in Louisiana who go to the government for a paycheck these days.

Wooley said that’s led to new problems — and is partly to blame for delayed payments.

“Now we have a whole new set of people, so those rules don’t really fit,” he said. “So we’re having to force the system to do something that it normally wouldn’t be asked to do.”

“We’re struggling some with more or less putting a square peg in a round hole,” he said.

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