Posted December 10, 20203:26 pm
Ohio's unemployment compensation (UC) system was not prepared for the influx of applications that came when workers who lost jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic sought relief.
The UC system was designed to help people cover food, rent, and other essential payments during times when they are not earning income. This year, applicants found themselves without any relief as they spend hours on hold, and waited weeks for any news about the status of their application.
In September, The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland joined legal service providers across Ohio for awareness campaign on social media with the hashtag "#LostInTheSystem," an initiative intended to draw attention to the pervasive problems in Ohio's unemployment compensation system.
One person who was #LostInTheSystem before Legal Aid intervened is Susan Steels. Susan spent weeks sending corrected documents to the unemployment office after they denied her initial application. Months went by and Susan fell behind on mortgage and car payments, until a Legal Aid attorney helped her solve the issue with her claim and submit the correct information. In August of 2020, Susan's claim was approved, and she also received back payments. Susan is incredibly grateful for Legal Aid's assistance. "I don't know what I would have done without them," she said of the team that worked on the case.
Another person #LostInTheSystem this year was William Mills (name changed to protect client privacy). In February, a new company bought William's employer and laid him off. He applied for unemployment, but his claim was denied a few days before the COVID-19 pandemic led to shutdowns throughout the country. He turned to Legal Aid for help staying financially solvent as his circumstances became more and more dire.
An attorney coached William on representing himself at his unemployment hearing. Thanks to this expert guidance, William was approved for compensation. He ended up receiving $1,400, but was still owed another $1,800. Because the pandemic was now in full swing, he struggled to get a clear answer on how to access the rest of his money. He was falling behind on his mortgage, car, and medication payments - until Legal Aid identified a problem in his weekly claim filing that had been holding up the rest of his benefits. Once rectified, William finally received all of the unemployment compensation to which he was entitled. Today, Williams is relied to have financial stability, thanks to Legal Aid.
To learn more about the #LostInTheSystem campaign, follow the hashtag on social media.