Call backlog slowly improving for Workforce Commission, thousands still waiting
BATON ROUGE - The state is finally offering some answers after thousands of people were cut off from their unemployment benefits pending a fraud investigation.
There are still thousands of claimants waiting to hear back from someone at the Louisiana Workforce Commission, but 2 On Your Side learned Wednesday afternoon that the LWC is slowly chipping away at those 30,000 claimants who need staff review.
Lorraine Hatton used to be a cook at Red Fish Grill in the French Quarter. It's a job she held for more than a decade until she was laid off in March.
"This is worse than Katrina," she said.
Hatton says she had to move out of her apartment and has been couch-surfing. It's been 11 weeks since she last received an unemployment payment.
"For Katrina, you had different sources," she said. "For this pandemic, you have one source and it's unemployment."
The stories continue in Baton Rouge. Jeremy Yeager used to work as a commercial electrician up until he lost his job due to the pandemic. He's been on and off unemployment this past year but recently he hasn't been receiving benefits.
"It shouldn't be this difficult to process," Yeager said. "Right now I'm behind on my rent and my landlord is getting tired of hearing the excuse that I'm dealing with the Louisiana Workforce Commission."
Others who spoke with 2 On Your Side last week report another week of silence.
"Nothing has changed," Velissa Frank said.
Frank says she's part of groups online where hundreds of people chat about their unemployment issues.
"The few people that did get things done are the people that have the new cases," Frank said. "The people like myself and others who have been waiting for months can't get anything done."
Emails sent to 2 On Your Side are forwarded to the Louisiana Workforce Commission. On Jan. 8, 2021, LWC Secretary Ava Dejoie said that 30,000 claimants fell into a basket of people waiting to hear back about various issues with their claim. Wednesday, the LWC provided an update to that number and said, out of the old claimants, staff have cleared nearly 11,000 claims since Jan. 8. New staff hired to work nights and weekends have been working to clear those waiting claimants.
That leaves about 20,000 people with an old claim that requires staff review and a phone call. Hatton is one of those 20,000 people.
"It shouldn't take this long if you're processing something," she said.
In addition, the LWC says its automated system has cleared another 20,000 claims, which are new and continuing.