BATON ROUGE - With the week ending, 2 On Your Side has heard from at least 100 claimants since Monday who say they're stuck in limbo and can't get answers about their unemployment benefits.
Debbie Comardelle lives in St. Charles Parish and says she never thought she would be in this position at this stage of her life.
"I'm 55 years old, and I never had to depend on anyone else for money," she said.
Yet here she is, unemployed and frustrated. She was laid off in April and received benefits up until December 2020. There's a benefit control audit on her claim that she can't seem to get cleared. It just says it's in progress.
"I can't get through to them. I call them every day, several times a day," Comardelle said. "I can't get through to them."
Brazella Briscoe of Geismar says it's been just as long for him as well. The last he heard from someone was in December, and then he was told he'd hear from someone within 21 days. He hasn't heard anything since.
"Nobody called me, texted me. I even tried to send emails, and they don't answer emails," he said. "I don't know what's wrong."
On Feb. 5, 2021, the Louisiana Workforce Commission said it had cleared a backlog of 30,000 claimants waiting on identity verification. Friday, 2 On Your Side asked Sec. Ava Dejoie about the 100 or so emails and calls received this week.
"You're saying 100 people contacted you, and I guess my response to that is, but we paid 200,000 people this week," Dejoie said. "We continue to work through every single claim, everyone's circumstance is different and we will continue to help each and every individual."
Often, claimants who contact WBRZ say they have a terrible time getting through to someone on the phone at LWC. Claimants report being transferred and immediately hung up on or stuck on hold for an hour or more. Dejoie says that LWC is still hiring people to answer phones, but there are only so many people qualified to help.
"Depending on what their issue is, there are only x-number of skilled seasoned staff that can work through certain issues," Dejoie said.
Right now, Dejoie says there could be a number of issues as to why people's claims remain "in progress." It could include conflicting employer submissions where the employee refused to return to work or quit, someone isn't available to work, or someone received wages and didn't report them to LWC.
Dejoie continues to tout the workforce's success. The U.S. Department of Labor holds the Louisiana system in high regard, ranking it consistently as number one and two for getting people their benefits in a timely manner. But some appear to be falling through the cracks and claimants like Comardelle want answers.
"What's the hold-up?" she said.
So far in 2021, LWC has paid out $550 million to Louisiana citizens.