Single mother says she's been wrongfully denied unemployment benefits due to child care issues

SMYRNA, Delaware (WPVI) -- Several months into the COVID-19 pandemic, Alejandra Garcia, a single mom of a two-year-old boy, Kartier, found herself making one of the toughest decisions of her life.

Garcia was juggling her job as a patient care specialist at Christiana Care Hospital and also being a mom of an infant diagnosed with severe asthma.

She ended up voluntarily quitting her job after her son's day care told her he was not allowed back given he had a cough, one of the symptoms of COVID-19. Even though she explained that the cough was not due to the virus, Garcia found herself with no other options but to leave work.

"Do I continue to be an employee?" Garcia questioned. "Do I continue to be a mom? My son comes first."

She was only 11 days away from being able to apply for the Family and Medical Leave Act when she quit her job. But she said she had no one else to watch her son.

Her story is so similar to other moms who say they were forced to quit their jobs because of child care issues during the pandemic.

State laws spell out that if parents must leave their jobs because of lack of child care, they are entitled to unemployment. But the Department of Labor and Unemployment does have to investigate each case, which slows down the process from many parents receiving financial help.

The issue has impacted thousands of working parents throughout the tri-state area during the worst public health crisis of the century.

"If you have no income and you're waiting six months for unemployment, that's obviously devastating even if ultimately you get it at the end. How do you survive in the meantime?" said Sharon Dietrich, litigation manager with Community Legal Services, based in Philadelphia.

Unemployment has really taken a toll on women.

According to the National Women's Law Center, there were 2.1 million fewer women in the workforce this past December.

Attorneys say states are overwhelmed with cases, and that there needs to be more resources dedicated to them.

"The state is just going to say you're behind hundreds of thousands of other people waiting for a decision," Dietrich said.

Dietrich encourages women in this position to appeal.

For Garcia, time is running out and she is forced to go back to work.
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