Since the Coronavirus pandemic began, millions of Americans have lost their jobs and fallen on hard times… often turning to unemployment services for help.
But for one Helena woman, that relief was nowhere to be found… that is, until she got a little assistance from our very own “Help Me Taylor.”
“I love my daughter, I love my granddaughter, and I love having them here. But financially it’s a huge stress. The pandemic put a wrench in everything and unfortunately I feel like a lot of these places are using it as a crutch to not do their job.”
In the last few months, Marge Quinn has essentially taken on a second part-time job, helping her daughter Heather collect unemployment benefits.
Heather lost her job in January… shortly after, she discovered she was pregnant, and her doctor recommended she not work due to her high risk pregnancy.
So in June, she filed for unemployment. Little did she know how difficult that process would be.
“All I keep getting told is I’m eligible and I qualify, I qualify for pandemic unemployment I qualify for regular unemployment, but none of them can figure out why I can’t get paid at all. I don’t understand that.”
The details surrounding Heather’s eligibility are in question… either way, she needs a straight answer from unemployment to qualify for any other type of aid. At this point, all Heather and Marge want is a yes or no answer so they can move forward.
“You can’t get ahold of unemployment. You call, it rings one time, and then busy signal. And this goes on all day long until they close. And when they close you get a recorded message.”
It’s true… you can’t get through to unemployment through the main phone lines… in fact during my visit we called and tried, several times.
“It seems to me that if you have a black and white case, no problem, everything goes through. If you’re in that grey area, oh my god you look out because it might take awhile,” says Marge.
I reached out to the Governor’s office for some help. They say in part that “easy cases” are usually resolved within 24 hours… but for more complicated cases, it could be up to 72 hours.
Next, I called the unemployment office. They told me the claims processing staff has answered over 12,400 calls in September alone… more than double from August.
Unfortunately, none of this means much for Heather and her new baby girl.
“She’s more important to me now than anyone in this world… she might not be important to other people, but as a mother not knowing how you’re going to financially support your daughter, and going to bed at night no knowing how you’re going to afford diapers…”
Marge says, “I feel like no one was listening, everyone was passing the buck… I’m like we can’t be the only ones this is happening to. We’ve got to bring this to the attention of someone, anyone, so I’m like I’m calling the news station.”
Since calling me, I’ve been able to put Marge and Heather in touch with people at both the Governor’s office and directly inside the Dept. of Labor and Industry. Heather tells me she feels relieved to now be able to talk to a person directly, and says she recently got a check for $1,000, although there’s still work to be done.
If you’re dealing with a situation you think I can help with, click the “Help Me Taylor” tab.