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More unemployment complaints fill On Your Side inbox; La. reports thousands more seeking aid

3 years 5 months 3 weeks ago Saturday, January 16 2021 Jan 16, 2021 January 16, 2021 1:05 PM January 16, 2021 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE - It has been a week since the Louisiana Workforce Commission held a Zoom news conference about hiring more people to answer calls and approve claimants. This week, 2 On Your Side has been inundated with emails and calls from people who all have similar stories.

Thursday, more than 100 emails came to 2 On Your Side. Friday, there were 100 more from all over Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. Each email is forwarded to LWC with the hope that they will be recognized and addressed. 

Veronica Tovar applied for unemployment in October after being laid off from a refinery in Louisiana. She says after receiving four unemployment insurance payments her claim was flagged for fraud and the money stopped. She submitted the necessary paperwork to prove her identity but has not heard back since. 

"It's been like that for seven weeks. It says it's in processing," Tovar said. "I'm only depending on unemployment right now. It's been seven weeks and nothing."

Like Tovar, Kiara Marrow spends a lot of time on the phone trying to reach someone at the LWC.

"I have called daily for the last month," she said.

Marrow was taking care of a disabled veteran when she was laid off due to the coronavirus.

"Sometimes I wait three hours, and someone gets on the phone and hangs up," Marrow said.

That's a complaint 2 On Your Side has heard dozens of times.

"Nobody answers the phone and then when they do they hang it up immediately," Robert Sproles said.

Sproles worked in the service industry last year until he was laid off. He says his bills are piling up since his claim, like thousands of others, was flagged for fraud. It's been seven weeks since he last received unemployment insurance. He's even stopped by the unemployment office in Baton Rouge for help.

"I've gone by there several times," Sproles said. "The security guard at the gate won't even let you in. He says to write your name and number down on the urgent call list, but nobody ever calls back."

The emails coming into 2 On Your Side are heartbreaking. One says, "I'm sending this message in hopes that mine, along with countless others like me, will eventually be heard."

Gerry Williams lives in Leesville and says the last time he received unemployment was in May.

"We cannot talk to anybody. I'm not able to talk to anybody," he said.

Friday, 2 On Your Side learned that there are 30,000 people waiting to hear back from LWC.

"I guess I am one of the 30,000 people waiting on a callback. But Ms. Brittany, 30,000 people, they're going to be calling people back five years from now," Williams said.

Thursday and Friday, 2 On Your Side asked LWC multiple times for an update on the 30,000 number. LWC did not provide a specific update to that number but says since the previous week there have been an additional 40,000 claimants seeking unemployment. In the second week of the program, the state has distributed $54,767,100 to nearly 180,000 Louisianans.

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