NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — The Connecticut Department of Labor said it has processed just more than 80% of the more than 400,000 claims applications filed since mid-March. At least two-thirds of the filings are being approved.
Starting Monday, the department said it’ll be able to start paying people the $600 in weekly unemployment enhancement that was approved by Congress in the first pandemic package. Despite the department’s progress, Connecticut families continue to reach out to News 8 to say they are trapped in the unemployment system.
“April’s almost done and this seems like a dream every day, a nightmare,” said North Haven mother of two Jessenia Rosado. “I’m still not working. I’m still home, I’m still not knowing what to do.”
The medical office receptionist has already used her federal stimulus to pay all her past due bills.
She filed for unemployment more than a month ago, and though her co-workers have started getting their benefits, Rosado said she’s still waiting.
“When you don’t know what you’re going to do financially for your family it puts you in a state of mind where you’re constantly worried about the next bill, the dollar you’re going to spend,” said Rosado.
Viewers like Rosado have reached out to News 8 described a maze of phone calls, voicemails and emails as they try to get through to the Department of Labor with questions about their applications. On a conference call with reporters, Commissioner Kurt Westby and Deputy Commissioner Danté Bartolomeo said they’re replying to 3,000 emails a day. But Rosado said she’s not getting answers to the most important question—the one about when she will get her money.
“I’ve gotten six different emails back from different representatives of the Department of Labor and they’re all saying the same thing,” said Rosado. “I don’t know what else to do.”
“I’m out of money right now and can’t really work,” said Donald Williams, of New Haven. “You’re in limbo because they won’t tell you anything.”
Williams first reached out to News 8 last week. He was on the cusp of full-time employment when the pandemic hit. The unemployment benefits he had been receiving prior to the crisis ran out last Wednesday. Bartolomeo said generally people like Williams may be eligible for the new federal 13 week benefit extension, but that process won’t be able to implement that process until mid-May.
“If they have been getting benefits and it ran out and due to COVID they’re not able and eligible to find work, than that’s when it would apply to them for the extension,” Bartolomeo.
“We’re going as fast as we can keeping in mind this is an antiquated system,” said Westby.
We also have viewers who wrote in saying their benefits started, then stopped unexpectedly. The DOL acknowledges that’s an issue it’s working to resolve. So is a possibly related problem with applicants whose “return-to-work” dates have come and gone in the midst of the pandemic. Their jobs are still on hold, but their benefits, some say, have stopped.
The commissioners said DOL employees are working to manually fix the issues.
“We’re doing 500 to 1,000 of those per day,” said Bartolomeo. “We’re trying to grab batches of them.”
For those who need help, Bartolomeo said: “They should go to filectui.org and go to the ‘quick clicks’ and submit their online assistance center.”
Once you click the link, scroll down and click on “missed filing a weekly claim” if your payments have stopped.
Under the federal pandemic response, the self-employed are now eligible for benefits. The state said it’ll start processing those applications in exactly one week, but applicants should start applying as soon as possible.