MADISON, Ind. — Unemployment checks stopped coming in for Jeremy Webster in October.
His normal benefits through Kentucky were all used up by then, but the system said he still qualified for federal money.
Filing a claim proved to be difficult, though, and no money ever actually came in.
Webster says trying to get someone on the phone was the most stressful part.
“Picking the phone up and calling 30 times before noon, 30 times more after noon and getting the same recording that you would if you called at 2 o’clock in the morning,” Webster said. “To me, it sounds like nobody is even answering the phone or there to even answer the phone or they have them turned off.”
When in-person unemployment help became available, he got an appointment, but he had to drive to Owensboro two and a half-hours away. Still, no solution.
“I’m angry about it. I’ve been angry. I’ve been mad. I’ve been upset. I’ve been stressed out about it,” he said. “And the whole time down there, all I could say to myself is I shouldn’t be having to do this. It’s just nonsense.”
Webster worked in construction before the pandemic hit and finding work now hasn’t been easy. He shares a home with his mom, who helps pay the bills, and he’s had to make sacrifices of his own.
“I had a Matthews — I have a Matthews $1,300 bow and arrow; I had to pawn it for money for bills,” Webster said. “I have a Stoeger 12 gauge shotgun; I had to pawn it — it’s an $800 gun — I had to pawn it for bills. They’re sitting in pawn right now and I don’t want to lose them because of this.”
Webster got another appointment for in-person help in Covington, a bit closer to his home just across the Kentucky border in Madison, Indiana.
“They better fix my stuff because I probably won’t leave that office until somebody does something,” he said. “I told my mother that she might have to get me out of jail because I’m not getting out of that seat until somebody does something with my claim.
Webster was joking about that, but his frustration with the unemployment system is very real.
Data released this month by the Kentucky Labor Cabinet shows 122,578 unresolved unemployment claims, with 56,437 of those being flagged for fraud or identity issues.