Workers laid off during COVID-19 pandemic band together to help each other get claims approved

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The complaints continue to come into ABC11 from North Carolinians who have lost their job and struggled to get help from the state government.

Many of the more than 800,000 people who have lost their jobs say they've had a hard time getting a response from the Department of Employment Security (DES). They've spent hours on the phone, sent multiple emails, and started multiple online chat sessions. Still, they've received few, if any answers.

One group of unemployed workers are banding together, trying to get claims approved.

The Facebook group is called North Carolina Unemployment. Raleigh independent contractor Ivan Royster started the group after he had trouble for eight weeks getting his claim with unemployment filed.

"It was a job. You got up at eight the morning, and prayed you could get in queue," he said.

Royster said he made endless calls to DES and sent numerous emails, and even got lawmakers involved to try and get his claim processed.

He started the Facebook group to help others in the same situation.

"It would give them hope and resources that they are not alone," Royster said.

In the group, Royster, along with other unemployed North Carolinians post their success stories at getting through to someone at DES.

What's worked the best? Royster says they complied with a list of DES worker's email addresses, which gives people a way to reach someone directly at DES.

"Pick a couple of them and email them."

Several people in the Facebook group say it has worked, changing their case from pending to approved.

"If one person got through, that one whatever information they got it could spread to the community," Royster added. This group is just one of many on Facebook that is trying to help unemployed people.
Fayetteville resident Chad Polidore is hoping it works for him.

He's an independent contractor and filed for unemployment April 5th. His claim status remains pending as of May 15.

"The phone queue kicks you out every time after two hours, and then you have to sit on hold all over again."

Polidore provided phone records that show he sits on hold calling DES for over two hours at a time several times a day and still doesn't get through.

When he finally got someone at DES, he said the employee didn't help.

"She said she couldn't access what she needed to fix my case because she was working from home," Polidore said.

He now has the email list of those that work at DES and sent off several emails and is hoping at least one of those workers will take a look at his case that has been pending for weeks.

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A representative with the Division of Employment Security said they have had to ramp up their staffing very quickly to help with the huge influx of claims.

"We started with about 500 DES employees. We have hired or are in the process of hiring another 105 employees," Kerry McComber with DES said. "Approximately 200 staff members from the Division of Workforce Solutions (also a division of the Department of Commerce) are working with us on the phones. We have contracted with a private call center, Maximus for 1,800 call center agents."

When it comes to how much those new employees can handle McComber said, "We have been providing expedited training for the new agents to build their skill sets so they can assist as many people as possible. However, more complex issues may need to be handled by the more experienced staff."

Please share your frustrations with us when to comes to filing for unemployment, and we'll continue to try to get you answers.
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