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Unemployment situation becomes dire for some; 2 On Your Side hears from dozens

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BATON ROUGE - The unemployment situation in Louisiana is getting dire for some. Thursday, 2 On Your Side heard from nearly 100 people who have been waiting to hear back from the Louisiana Workforce Commission.

The calls and emails came from all around Louisiana, and a few calls from Mississippi and Texas. More than a dozen people contacted 2 On Your Side from the Shreveport area, another dozen from Lafayette, New Orleans, Lake Charles, and Baton Rouge. All of them are anxiously awaiting answers about their unemployment.

"It's getting pretty tight. It's getting dire by the second," Marcus Brown said.

Brown was laid off from UPS and says his claim has been "in progress" for the last three weeks.  He says he spends hours on hold with LWC.

"After five hours on the phone, I get hung up on like the second somebody answers the phone," Brown said.

His call log is similar to others. Some claimants say they call dozens of times a day, many of them are calls that are less than a minute long because they get disconnected.

Velissa Frank, a phlebotomist in Reserve, Louisiana, got laid off in September. She received one week of unemployment benefits and then everything stopped.

"I got an email saying I was under benefit audit control. I had no idea what that was," Frank said.

She says her calls and emails have gone unanswered. 

Conosha Thomas was working at a psychiatrist's office in Lake Charles when she had to evacuate due to Hurricane Laura. She hasn't heard back from LWC either.

"It's exhausting, frustrating," Thomas said. "I'm barely keeping my head above water right now."

Other people who contacted 2 On Your Side Thursday said if they do reach someone at LWC, they are told by the person on the other end of the line that they don't know how to help them.

Last Friday, LWC said it recently hired 300+ people to handle the high call volume, but thousands of people are waiting to hear back. Sec. Ava Dejoie said then that about 30,000 people waiting to hear back from LWC about various issues. Thursday, 2 On Your Side asked twice for an update on that number - considering the additional employees to handle the calls - and did not hear back.

As of Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021, LWC says it has paid a total of $47 million in Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) benefits representing approximately 150,000 claimants. That's up about 10,700 claimants from last week’s total of $41 million, which had represented 139,300 claimants.

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