Troubleshooter helps Raleigh woman get unemployment after waiting more than 220 days

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we've helped dozens of unemployed navigate obstacles when it comes to getting their unemployment benefits from North Carolina's Division of Employment Security.

One of the most recent cases involves Raleigh resident Briana Headen. She's waited more than 220 days for her unemployment.

"What is so special about my case is that it is taking this long," she said.

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At the end of September of 2020, Headen lost her job at the bakery where she worked.

"October 1st I tried to file for unemployment and found out that someone had used my social," she said.

Headen filed a claim with the fraud department at DES and thought it would be resolved within a few weeks. However, weeks of waiting, turned into months, and every time she tried to log on to DES's system, she said she still could not file for benefits since her social security number was already used.

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Headen said she reached out to DES weekly but: "That's pretty much the update that I get every time is that it's still being investigated."

For eight months, Headen could not file for benefits, so she had no money coming in while she was unemployed.

She says if it wasn't for her family, she wouldn't have been able to make it.

"I probably would be in a situation of not having somewhere to stay or not being able to pay bills," she said.

Headen got in touch with Troubleshooter Diane Wilson and she reached out to DES.

It still took many weeks, but eventually, DES worked with Headen to clear the fraud from her account and she eventually was able to file for benefits.

While waiting for her unemployment, Headen did not sit idle. She went back to school and started her bakery called Retro Sweets Bakery.

Besides starting her own business, the icing on the cake for Headen was when DES finally started paying the benefits she deserved, which included thousands of dollars worth of back pay. And she can finally log into her account with DES and file for weekly benefits.

When it comes to unemployment claims filed, the goal of the state is to pay benefits to those who qualify within 14 to 21 days of filing.

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North Carolina has improved in processing claims involving first-time payments. The latest data showing 83% of first-time payment were paid in three weeks, that's almost double the percent the state was paying last June. The state also processing an average of seven times fewer claims than it was last summer, yet 6% of claims are unpaid 70 days after filing.

According to the NC DES, the fastest and most efficient way to apply for benefits is to create an account online at des.nc.gov. If you're temporarily out of work or your working hours have been reduced due to COVID-19, choose 'coronavirus' as your reason for separation when filing your claim. Remember, you must complete a Weekly Certification for every week you are filing for benefits to receive payments. If you earned any wages during the week, you must report them on your Weekly Certification.

Also, make sure you upload all of the correct documents and double-check the information you type in is accurate, as mistakes on your part, can cause delays. Starting June 6, a work search is required for everyone filing for benefits.
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