Pandemic Unemployment in West Virginia Remains Unpaid With No Answers
During the pandemic we saw an unprecedented change for those struggling amid the shut downs. The pandemic unemployment assistance would allow small businesses, gig workers and freelancers suffering to apply for PUA benefits. Along with additional funds from the CARES ACT.
But why do these claims remain unpaid in West Virginia? Many people have been waiting for 11 weeks and today remain no closer to an answer for their basic PUA payments, as well as no CARES ACT payments.
Fellow Mountaineers are facing evictions, shut off notices and struggling even more as a direct result of the issues with the PUA system.
Do you have unpaid PUA benefits?
Unpaid PUA Payments
For myself and so many others this PUA system initially was a blessing. I work in social media advertising outside of being a writer. As a direct result of Covid-19 I found myself with less work coming in.
The small businesses and companies I normally work with were impacted. And there has been a much lower advertising need as a result. Working reduced hours as my son has been home full time now with the school closings. It has not left a lot of time to search for new clients.
Thousand of people like myself in West Virginia have been trying to get a straight answer from Workforce for weeks. Weeks of constant run around, excuses and double talk. Everyone has been getting a different answer as to why there are no payments being sent.
The issue is so widespread there is a Facebook group with over a thousand members (growing daily). Where frustrated West Virginians try to help each other weed through the issues. Share experiences and excuses they are given. I have been there for a while now, and from the screen shots you can tell the powers that be, are clueless.
First workforce attempted to displace the blame on the software vendor Geographic Solutions, Inc. So many contacted the company to see what was the issue. The reply to one member was 'We do not facilitate the payments we only sold the software to West Virginia'.
There have been so many excuses it is obvious Workforce was in no way prepared and is telling people whatever they can to get them off the phone as soon as possible. Hold times for calling in an attempt to sort issues out with claims run as long as 4 hours.
Another major hiccup within the PUA system for claims and payments was a large 'IP issue' impacting thousands of PUA claims. This issue has kept many from receiving benefits stating that the IP addresses were flagged.
Since those IP issues have been investigated and fixed people are still waiting on the payments.
Call Back Lists and Unanswered Emails
The pandemic unemployment dashboard has a message option. So you can email within the system any issues or questions you may have. I am already 4 days out from sending a message and waiting on a reply via the dashboard. The message has been sent, and yet not showing 'read' in the system.
The same is true with a contact email the Facebook group was given to seek help for their claims. Both unanswered for days, meanwhile 'in progress' status showing and staying unchanged.
Another way of putting off those waiting on pandemic unemployment payments has been to tell them 'I will add you to the call back list'. Days and weeks go by and apparently someone lost the list because very few are getting actual call backs.
It is almost laughable the overwhelming issues West Virginia residents are having with the PUA payments. What else can you do when you get no where trying to figure it out? Several residents are appearing in court for evictions as I write this because they cannot pay their rent. Others stressed and overwhelmed staring down a stack of utility shut off notices.
If all that was not bad enough. The pandemic unemployment hit EBT recipients too. Since they are required to report any income, the pending unemployment and CARES ACT payments have cut off their benefits. So they are struggling, getting the run around and now have to further stress with no incoming payments and no funds for food.
If not getting an email or a call back in itself was not bad enough. Those getting emails and call backs are getting different answers from the same people. Different answers, for the exact same issues and circumstances.
A few of my favorite excuses so far have been:
- I see no issues, your payment should be released Tuesday.
- That was an IP issue, it is fixed in the system now you should be able to expect payment next week.
- We have fixed your issues, you should see a pay-date appear on your dashboard and then deposits can take 2-3 days after the date.
- Sorry for the wait that is an issue with the vendor and they are working on it, I wish I had more to tell you.
The list of excuses is exhausting, none of us know whom or what one to believe. But so far for the majority Tuesday, dates or deposits never come.
No Payments Since You Now Qualify for Regular Unemployment
If all the issues already weren't enough to make your head spin-there is more! Many people are now having issues with payments because the system seems to think they qualify for regular unemployment. The entire nature of PUA was for gig workers, freelancers and self employed.
None of those fall under the guidelines for regular unemployment. But, here we are the system has flagged many as being ineligible for their benefits because they now qualify for regular unemployment. Despite many already receiving denials for it prior to PUA availability.
This system has more holes in it than a nice chunk of Swiss cheese. At this point I think if I were West Virginia I would be asking for my money back from the company I purchased the software from.
The only media attention or blanket response we have seen in the 11 weeks that there have been issues was this week. Finally addressing the issue and placing blame on fraudulent claims.
How in the world you can purchase a software for this purpose that does not flag duplicate entries is beyond me. Most basic shopping and survey sites manage this with ease. This issue with no payments or in progress payments has been going on for so long that by now someone should have been able to evaluate claims.
Especially those with claims who have been calling or emailing with no responses or the blatantly false excuses.
I do hope that the mention of duplicate 'routing' numbers was meant to be account numbers they mention. Since anyone with the same bank would all have the same routing number.
But here we are, with one resident accused of submitting over 60 claims. I honestly cannot help but wonder if that was not an issue with software. Apparently many out of state people have been attempting to submit claims in West Virginia as well.
So now we are told that everything will have to be reviewed in an effort to confirm our identities and validate our claims. The majority of us have already had to upload supporting documents for identification purposes in hopes it would speed the process.
Those with 'in progress' status will now be waiting weeks longer on payments that are already weeks behind. If WorkforceWV is so far understaffed, I am sure many people would gladly take on a temp position to help counteract the backlog. Hurry up and wait West Virginia there is no end in sight.
Have you been able to reach anyone about your PUA claim?
Where Are Our Elected Officials?
Not once has anyone who called to inquire or emailed for an update been told anything about these 'fraudulent' claims. We are always told it should get sorted in a few days. If the issue was cases needing reviewed for potential fraud just be honest. Constantly giving people excuse after excuse is helping no one.
Meanwhile our governor Jim Justice is doing a live Covid-19 update everyday, fixing roads, or the next phase of opening the state. Focusing his energy on everything but getting this issue resolved, despite many calling his office to inquire.
So here we are many of us the self employed small businesses Jim Justice tells the masses to support. Waiting while our questions remain unanswered falling on the deaf ears of our elected officials.
I am not sure about you West Virginia but I have tweeted, comment contacted and exhausted all efforts to get attention at this point. I feel like as a West Virginian I have no voice. It all just falls to the wayside while our officials focus on other matters.
Meanwhile they are working towards opening up the state and excited to share that fairs and festivals will be allowed to reopen. Mr. Justice who will be able to go support these fairs and festivals and the business that are re-opening without income? At this point it would have been faster to snail mail applications in with supporting documents. Many of us have uploaded all the documents required to prove our identity and then some!
We cannot put money into our state and local economy if we don't have it. The rising costs of foods and outrageous hikes in the cost of meat right now is not helping either. Where will people with children be who have been waiting on payments for 11 weeks when the judge awards their landlords the evictions?
Another month goes by while thousands are still running into constant obstacles and are no closer to being paid. Many people have jumped through all the hoops they were asked to and are still no closer to an answer.
If you are struggling with your PUA claim I can offer some tips that may or sadly may not help. Many have had luck uploading an exhausting amount of proof of income, address and identity documents.
PUA Unemployment Documents to Upload
- ID or Drivers license
- Social Security Card
- Voters registration
- 1099 forms
- 2019 Tax documents
- Schedule C forms
- Proof of address such as a utility bill.
- Gig workers ~ proof of income if you are not a 1099.
- Small businesses ~ canceled client contracts.
Many people have recently been told they now qualify for regular unemployment benefits. As such they are also required to pay back the PUA Unemployment benefits. This is a concerning situation considering most were already waiting 13 weeks on payments, and those funds were used to pay rent and utilities in arrears.
This also has the claims set back to pending, with zero payments coming through while they wait on someone to switch their claims to regular unemployment. These folks are being told someone will contact them to switch them over, and yet many have been waiting weeks. All while they are afraid to use any incoming PUA payments as they have to pay them back.
This week sparked a new potential 'glitch' in the system it seems. Many after filing this weeks certifications were asked to 'file a new claim'. It has been random, not everyone got this message so we are unclear if this is a new 'glitch' in the already archaic system used to process claims. We are as yet unsure what the reason behind this is, considering their claims were still open and their allotted weeks were not exhausted.
To date the WV PUA Unemployment Discussion group on Facebook has been more helpful than any phone call or email sent. The group files contain email contacts and various phone numbers for Workforce.
The group is full of people sharing their positive and negative experiences all to try and help each other sort through the mess.
Offering ideas in and what has worked for them to help those still waiting 'in progress' to be paid. While West Virginia maybe failing its residents, those residents are rallying trying to help each other.
Bottom line is, they are still grossly understaffed for an undertaking of this magnitude. With only 4-5 employees who have the clearance to access and work on these claims. Since claims all have to be reviewed for fraud this no doubt means many will still have weeks more to wait.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Cynthia Hoover