'It's rough but I pray every day': Garner man is one of many facing North Carolina's grueling unemployment process

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Today it was four hours, yesterday the same.

"I'm going to keep calling," said Jeffrey Baker, whose calls to the unemployment office ends with no answer.

Baker is a chef for two hotels in Cary and his job has been put on hold. He used his paid time off to get him by for now but that's run out soon.

Since March 15, Baker said he has been applying for unemployment.

"It's been hard but I'm getting there," Baker said from his Garner home. "Since the PTO ran out, I'm actually trying to get some answers from unemployment because for one I do see my children every other day but this is a means for me to pay for my child support."

Thousands of people like Jeffrey have called ABC 11 and there are more stories out there than can possibly be told.

The Division of Employment Security-- which is a part of the North Carolina Department of Commerce-- said Thursday more than $1.4 billion has been paid out to nearly 465,000 people across the state.

"They've added 1,400 people to the call center but they have a system that's getting close to 1,000 applications an hour," said State Senator Wiley Nickel, who also sits on the joint legislative oversight committee on unemployment insurance. "I think we're down to maybe 500 per hour. Everyone understands it's an issue and we're throwing resources at it."

More than 1 million claims were filed from March to May 6. 895,000 of those claims have been related to COVID-19.

"It's rough but I pray every day," said Jeffrey, who was told by the hotels that they hope to be back in June. "With the help of him above, I sustain and actually get through it."

Of the more than a million people to apply in North Carolina, less than half of those claims have been approved.

Senator Nickel said $70 million in the relief package just passed was earmarked for the unemployment issue.

We reached out to the Department of Employment Security via phone and email and didn't hear back.
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