Unemployment Checks Delayed by Backlog

By: Jennifer Denman

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September 19, 2008

Rogersville, MO - Nearly 200,000 Missourians don't have jobs and many are forced to live off unemployment checks. But there's a whole new problem out there for those families.

The Department Of Labor is under a major backlog. Since June, the unemployment rate has risen in Missouri at an alarming rate.

From just July to August of this year, 6,000 people state wide lost their jobs. Nearly 4,000 of those lost in August were manufacturing jobs.

The layoffs are increasing the workload at the Department Of Labor and forcing a delay in unemployment checks. To families waiting, one week can mean the difference between no food and even eviction.

Elizabeth Williams is one of those people waiting. She has an endless stack of bills. The unpaid folder if full, the paid one empty.

"You sit there at night and think about it what are you going to do tomorrow," says Williams.

She was laid off from her job August 15. Then her partner, Troy Johnson, lost his job two weeks ago.

"I was working at Willowbrook as a maintenance mechanic and I was aware they were going to shut down the plant," says Johnson.

"Not only are we out my income; we're out his as well," says WIlliams.

The couple is searching for work and putting up a strong front for their three kids. Each day, Elizabeth checks the mailbox for her unemployment check.

"Three weeks went by. Four weeks went by. Still nothing. This is our fifth week," says Williams.

The Department of Labor says there's a major backlog because of the rise in unemployment and disaster unemployment assistance. A typical days is 6,000 calls, which is now doubled. Normally, it takes about four weeks to issue checks, now it's five or six weeks.

"Five weeks is five weeks of just trying to keep food in your refrigerator, gas in the vehicle, the kids dressed clothes cleaned," says Johnson.

The Department of Labor approved overtime for 35 employees. It's brought in retired staff and extended its hours. But for Troy and Elizabeth, this just isn't good enough.

"I would like to see them realize that at four, five, six weeks, families are losing their homes, kids are going hungry," says Johnson.

"We are America. We're the picture and I feel like were being ignored," says WIliams.

The Department of Labor says it does not know how long it will take to catch up.

President Bush did recently extend unemployment benefits by 13 weeks because of the economy. So if you still didn't have a job after the regulated 26 weeks, you would get an extra 13 to look for a job.

Meantime, the Department of Labor says try not to call. That keeps them from processing applications.

KOLR/KSFX also contacted Missouri Representative Sarah Lampe's office. One of her aids says they will look into see if anything else can be done.



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