CHARLOTTE — North Carolina has waived some requirements to be eligible for unemployment and the federal government has agreed to give people more money, but many residents say they’re having trouble even applying.
Over the last few days, more people contacted Action 9's Jason Stoogenke about the issue than anything else.
Dozens have been calling, emailing and messaging him. He went on Facebook and asked people if they’re having trouble and a few hours later, there were more than 100 comments.
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“I had called, I think, six or seven times and I kept getting hung up on,” Kelly Mac told Stoogenke in an interview. "Never got a real person. It was always the automated, ‘You’ve reached this’ and, ‘Press this number for that’ and it just never got to a live person.”
Mac worked for a day care center that closed because of the virus.
Stoogenke called the North Carolina Department of Commerce, which runs the unemployment program. It said it had received more than 266,000 claims because of the coronavirus so far.
It says the fastest way to apply is online.
If you have questions, check this list of FAQs.
You can call, but it admits “long wait times.” So you may want to use this form instead.
Have all of your information ready (Social Security Number, bank information, work history, etc.) so you don’t have keep stopping and starting.
Stoogenke's been looking for ways to help everyone in this situation.
He went to his Facebook page and asked people who had success applying to tell him what worked, so he could share the advice. They sent him many suggestions.
The three most common are:
- Use Internet Explorer
- Go online late at night or early morning
- Don’t be alarmed if you have to fill in the same information more than once
Stephanie Jones said she kept trying to apply for unemployment but couldn’t get the website to work.
"It’s not even loading when you try to go on the internet, and you can’t get anybody on the phone,” she told Stoogenke. "Today is (April) 1. I need my bills paid and how am I supposed to do that without any income?”
Brenda Fife said she was able to apply weeks ago, but she hasn’t heard anything since.
“I’m not even sure if they’ve ever even received it,” she said. "Bills are still coming in. No money’s coming in, but bills are coming in.”
They’re frustrated with the state.
"They want us to be understanding, and I’m trying to understand, but when is somebody going to understand what I’m going through?” she said.
Bryan Roberts sent Stoogenke video of him trying to get through to an unemployment representative.
"It never does anything, and this is Day 2 of it,” he said during the video. "I'm at a loss. I have no idea what to do.”
Emily Lipe is a self-employed IT specialist and she was already on unemployment. She is trying to figure out how to extend it.
"I go on the website, doesn’t want to work. It times out. I can’t get anybody on the phone, so I don’t know what else to do,” she told Stoogenke.
The N.C. Department of Commerce runs the unemployment program and on April 1 told Stoogenke:
“We are addressing the huge spike in volume in several ways. We are hiring more staff. Candidates were interviewed over the weekend via Zoom. Some new employees began this week, and we will continue to add more throughout the week. We hired a private call center to assist in taking calls. It’s important that we are diligent in our hiring process because of the sensitive nature of the information people provide when filing claims for unemployment. Current employees are being cross-trained to assist in areas of need.
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