'I want to pay my bills': Pennsylvanians frustrated over status of unemployment benefits

Tuesday, May 5, 2020
Pa. residents frustrated over status of unemployment benefits
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Nearly 1.7 million Pennsylvanians have filed for unemployment benefits since the outbreak of the coronavirus.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Nearly 1.7 million Pennsylvanians have filed for unemployment benefits since the outbreak of the coronavirus, but filing doesn't necessarily mean getting.

"I got down to about $60 in my bank account," said Kimberly Curley, who thought she would avoid any issues when she filed for unemployment on March 26 in Pennsylvania.

With confirmation in her inbox, the former commercial sales associate thought help from the state was on its way.

By April, there was no unemployment check.

"I started calling by phone and you just keep hitting dial, dial, dial, because all you get is a busy signal, and it's been like that ever since. I call every day," said Curley.

RELATED: Action News Troubleshooters: Getting to the bottom of your unemployment frustrations

She says she keeps getting a "sorry for the delay" message and that the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry is trying to respond to as many emails as quickly as possible.

Monday, May 4 marks 39 days after filing.

"I want to pay my bills, my rent, utilities, but I can't, and I just don't know where to go for answers," Curely said.

"I checked my bank statement, my computer. They're always busy and they just hang up on you," said Therese Brady.

Brady, who was a per diem nurse for United Anesthesia and Jefferson Hospital, shared a similar story with Action News.

"In your head, you think maybe two weeks, three weeks. But now it's going on months. I haven't worked since March," said Brady.

RELATED: Answering questions about problems with unemployment benefits

The state is fielding a deluge of 20,000 calls a week due to the coronavirus lockdown.

"I pay into unemployment compensation, so when you're not getting those kinds of responses and you're not able to get the money owed to you, it's shameful," said Curely.

Local barbers have also expressed frustration.

"Financially, it's been rough for everyone," said Darryl Thomas, owner of Philly Cuts in West Philadelphia. "I'm the type of guy who worries about my team and when my team's not doing well, I'm not doing well."

Thomas said nearly a dozen barbers at his shop filed for unemployment back in March, but said they were denied after not qualifying under state standards.

They've teamed up with a number of other barbers in the region and are speaking with lawmakers, according to Thomas.

The hope is that they'll hear back soon on the status of new applications for financial assistance.

Action News reached out to Governor Tom Wolf's office for comment but we have not heard back.


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