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Frustrated by lack of answers about unemployment issues, Hoosiers turn to each other for help

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INDIANAPOLIS — Thousands of Hoosiers are stuck waiting for the state to investigate issues with their unemployment claims, and without a way to get answers some of them have turned to each other for help.

A Facebook group started by Mary McCloskey, a New Albany resident, has quickly gained more than 4,000 members who share their unemployment questions and successes to try to crowdsource solutions.

“If somebody happened to got through (the state’s call center) or happened to get a response to an email, they could share it instead of sitting on hold all day,” McCloskey said.

McCloskey, who received her benefits after three weeks and has since returned to work, continued to help people who could not get their issues resolved. Dozens of Hoosiers have told the CBS4 Problem Solvers that they spend hours on hold to reach Indiana’s Department of Workforce Development, only to be told that the call center representative cannot access their account to see what is wrong or when the issue will be resolved.

“The big issues now are the people that have filed in March, the beginning of March, and still haven’t received any payment,” McCloskey said.

Chris Goins fell into that category. A previous unemployment case from early 2019, in which Goins was denied benefits, transferred onto his current claim and caused it to go on hold.

“I’ve told every (person I talked to) what the problem was and they’re like, ‘I’m just a call center representative, I can’t help you with that, I can transfer you to somebody that can,’ and get transferred and, ‘We’ll call you back,'” Goins said.

Eight weeks after filing his initial claim and frustrated by a lack of answers, Goins finally saw his online account change to send payment this week.

“It felt like there was a ten million pound weight lifted off my shoulders,” Goins said.

The CBS4 Problem Solvers began highlighting long delays in unemployment payments in mid-April. DWD Chief of Staff Josh Richardson admitted weeks later that the department was still struggling to keep up with a backlog of issues, but said that it had tripled its number of claims investigators and tweaked its online system to fix many issues on its own.

“There’s nothing in us that thinks it’s okay for people to be waiting six or seven weeks, we want to do better than that,” Richardson said in May.

Since then, DWD Commissioner Fred Payne has highlighted some of the top issues with claims at the Governor’s weekly press conferences, though the department has not been willing to release week-by-week numbers of how long people have been waiting for solutions.

Goins and McCloskey joined other Hoosiers’ calls for more transparency, particularly when it comes to speaking to representatives who are unable to provide any specific information.

“It’s one thing to have to wait, but to not know that your issue may not be that big of an issue, it’s just a matter of somebody getting to it, I think could ease some of the anxiety for people,” McCloskey said.

You can read DWD’s updated list of frequently asked questions, including a glossary of issues that could be holding up claims, at the link here.

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