'I'm desperately in need of help:' Some in North Carolina still haven't been able to get unemployment benefits

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The heartbreak for the unemployed continues in North Carolina as many have gone weeks without a paycheck and still can't get their unemployment benefits.

Michelle Hudson lives in Wake Forest.

"I went from temporarily being unemployed to being permanently unemployed," Hudson said. "I've tried over the last three and a half weeks, I called 176 times to reach a person. I've sent 27 emails, and no one has responded. I'm desperately in need of help. I ran out of money, I have no food, and I'm currently alone. If there is anything you can help me with; please reach out to me."

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Toney Battle also lost her job recently and said she has yet to get through on the phone to the North Carolina Division of Employment Security.

"I stayed on the phone for five hours and 17 minutes," Battle said. "Today as you can see I stayed on the phone for seven hours and two minutes. This is ridiculous." Battle has yet to reach anyone on the phone.

Ginny Meadows echoed the same complaint.

NC Unemployment FAQs

"It's been six hours since I've been calling the unemployment office since they opened at 8:00 am. I get the same exact message that the queue is full," Meadows said. "This is kind of ridiculous."

The system is tied down. Since March 15th, 705,339, unemployment claims have been filed with the state. So far, $617,677,532 have been paid out in unemployment.

A representative with DES said, "Every claim is important, and we have been increasing our staff and upgrading our technology in response the unprecedented number of filings we've received. We want people to know we are working as quickly as possible to help everyone get the benefits for which they're eligible."

DES hopes to triple their staff by the end of this week to handle the increase in claims filed.

"The biggest impact on processing claims and issuing payments will come from increasing the number of people providing direct customer service in our call center," a representative for the department said. "We are providing expedited training for new call centers agents so that we can have 800 people on the phones by the end of this week. Additional new staff will be working in other areas throughout DES to support the administration of unemployment benefits."

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After filing for unemployment, DES said it could take at least two weeks to receive a payment after filing for unemployment.

"After you file your claim for unemployment insurance, your last employer is given, by law, ten days to respond to DES about your claim. No payment will be released until after this 10-day period," the representative said. "Your claim may be identified as 'pending' during this period. If there are no issues with your claim, it will take approximately 14 days from the time you file your claim to receive your first payment. In order to get paid, you need to file weekly certifications for each week of benefits. If those are not completed, you will not receive payments."

4.4M more Americans applied for unemployment last week; 26 million have sought US jobless aid since coronavirus hit

This Friday, the self-employed and independent contractors can file for unemployment. DES said their system will be ready to take applications for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance beginning this Friday, and they will have more details about applying for PUA on their website very soon.

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