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No update from workforce commission Thursday, call for help continues

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BATON ROUGE - The Louisiana Workforce Commission provided no new updates Thursday as thousands of unemployed people plead for help.

At the Baton Rouge office, a guard stands outside the gate monitoring traffic in and out. Sometimes she speaks with visitors like Natasha Tate.

"This is ridiculous. I'm all stressed out," said Tate.

Like others, Tate has been caught up in an unemployment benefit mess. She's been waiting to hear back from someone at the LWC.

"Why is it so hard to get through on the phone to talk to someone to get your business situated?" she said.

The guard took down Tate's name and number and told her she'd get a call in two to three business days. She told 2 On Your Side she wasn't holding her breath.

Tate was working as a nurse assistant until she lost her job last year. For the last few months, she's been struggling to pay her rent and take care of her family.

"I have a family that needs help," she said.

Amy Soileau is a teacher in Lafayette and can relate to what Tate is going through. She was preparing to start a new teaching job in March when the pandemic hit and the job suddenly became unavailable. She's been applying to various positions, including the service industry, but she hasn't landed a job. Then last month her unemployment benefits stopped. Soileau says she's all but given up on her benefits since she can't get through to anyone on the phone.

Soileau walked 2 On Your Side through the prompts for the unemployment helpline and three minutes in was told the call volume was high and to call back. The line disconnected.

She's been taking out her frustrations on Reddit, chatting with people from around the country. All of them are having issues with unemployment benefits.

"Louisiana is not alone in this fight at all. I mean, this is across the nation just countless people from countless states in desperation just trying to find answers," Soileau said.

The Louisiana Workforce Commission says it hired more people to cover the phones. But about two weeks ago it reported there were 30,000 claimants with an issue that required staff review. Wednesday, the LWC told 2 On Your Side that it's cleared about 11,000 claims, but there are still about 20,000 claimants waiting to hear from someone because their claim requires staff review.

"Something needs to be done, it's ridiculous," Tate said.

Many, like Tate, are relying on those dollars to pay their bills.

Thursday, LWC said it will publish updated data on Friday. The release will include a comprehensive update, including information about backlogged claims. From Jan. 1 to Jan. 15, 2021, LWC says it has distributed more than $166 million in unemployment aid across all Unemployment Insurance programs.


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