(KMOV.com) - Thousands of people are taking to Facebook to express frustration over the process to file for unemployment benefits in Missouri.
Many of them say they’re still waiting for answers and are starting to run out of hope. It’s an issue News 4 has been tracking for weeks.
Some people say they’ve been on hold for six weeks, wondering if they’ll get unemployment assistance, saying the State of Missouri just doesn’t care.
“It feels like a smack in the face,” said mom Tyessa Roper.
She says she wants more than anything to be back at work.
“It’s very difficult, it’s very stressful,” she said.
Until the COVID-19 crisis, she was a server at a local restaurant.
“You’re used to receiving those tips and nothing, there’s nothing, and its stressful, especially being a mother of three children who rely on that income," Roper said.
Six weeks after being laid off, she hasn’t received unemployment benefits.
Due to a paperwork issue, she says the state's website says her payment is scheduled for process and she says can’t get answers.
“You get a dial tone, the phone lines are busy, the wait lines are busy,” Tyessa said.
She’s waited on the phone for hours, only to be hung up on.
“My hands are tied, because the work field I am in, they are not doing work right now,” she said.
Justin Wheeler says, he too, has been waiting six weeks for word from Missouri's unemployment office.
“We are eating bare minimum, we are eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and drinking water,” he said.
When he finally got to talk to someone, there was more bad news.
“You know, when she told me it could be another five or six weeks, absolutely, you know, destroyed me because I don’t know where we’ll be, it’s just, it’s very scary,” Wheeler said.
He and Tyessa are now members of Facebook groups, thousands of people and dozens of posts a day, sharing similar stories, venting or asking each other for help navigating the system.
“Everyone on this Facebook group is in a rough spot and we’re trying to keep each other positive and keep each other updated, but you know, its really hard,” said Justin.
The Missouri Department of Labor declined News 4's request for an interview. They say they have processed closed to 400,000 initial claims in the last five weeks. They say have pulled in additional staff, including new hires, to help handle claims.
Some of the people News 4 spoke to say they have reached out to the Gov. Mike Parson's office, their representatives and senators and never heard back.
The Missouri Department of Labor provided some News 4 on what people are to do if people are having trouble getting through:
Missouri is experiencing an unprecedented number of unemployment claims as are other states across the nation. More than 90 percent of those that file an unemployment claim in Missouri are doing so online, without assistance. To assist citizens, we are utilizing staff from all program areas within the Department, other state agencies and have hired and continue to hire temporary help. We have implemented a chatbot available at labor.mo.gov and automated phone messaging to answer claimant questions. Most questions we are receiving can be answered by visiting labor.mo.gov/coronavirus, watching how-to videos at labor.mo.gov/des/videos, checking for correspondence and claim status on a claimant’s individual account at uinteract.labor.mo.gov or asking questions of the Department’s virtual assistant at labor.mo.gov or through the automated phone messaging. In the past three weeks Missouri has set up and processed payments for hundreds of thousands of Missourians. Last week Missouri became only one of 10 states to start processing and paying claims for the self-employed and others ineligible for regular unemployment through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. Both the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) and the PUA programs are not regular unemployment insurance programs but are new, fully federally funded assistance programs that were set up, implemented and began payments during the last three weeks.
Claims and claim information are available online at UInteract.labor.mo.gov. In addition to accessing the resources listed for answers, claimants may submit a web form for assistance at https://dolir-claims-contact.azurewebsites.net/claimantform