While people have been receiving unemployment benefits, a lot of the steps in the process can cause delays. Whether it's calling hundreds of times a week for unemployment insurance to applying for a small business loan through the Paycheck Protection Program, people are often left with more questions than answers.
So why is there such a delay in government help? What improvements are being made? And what can you do in the meantime?
Many states' websites and call centers aren't up to date
From one New Yorker being instructed to find a fax machine to file for unemployment to Florida's website continually crashing, the technology people must rely on for benefits access is not equipped for the influx of calls and applications. This is causing inevitable delays in the process, and tales of frustration from many.
There's an unanticipated number of people asking for help
With the unemployment rate currently soaring, government websites are experiencing "very heavy volumes of traffic." And with small business loans, banks have created their own guidelines on top of the requirements from the CARES Act, which results in applications taking longer to complete along with the high volume of people applying for disaster loans.
Call centers are facing unprecedented workloads with very new issues
Many of the workers on the other ends of these calls are working overtime and in offices where social distancing is not possible. Some have described feeling like they're doubling as mental health counselors dealing with so many calls. In some states, retired workers have been called in and work hours have extended to weekends. Be kind to the them, as it’s tough on their side as well.
The good news is, things should get easier.
Many states are making updates to the process, including tech and website changes to handle the traffic surges. Plus, many states are expanding call center capacity, hiring staff and providing additional training. New York is even reducing instances where applicants are required to call the labor department to free up phone lines and get paid quicker.
What you can do in the meantime:
None of the above are excuses for not getting financial relief quickly enough. But while it's fair to feel powerless right now, there are a few things you can do while you wait for your money.
One thing could be to join a website or group where you can ask other people questions about what they did to successfully get benefits. A lot of the language around the application process can be convoluted and dense, so sometimes the best help comes from people who have been through it already or can offer tips on how to get your check faster.
You can also try looking into alternate funding, from official fundraising efforts to micro grants. Many people are going through the same thing you are right now and forming communities around helping each other, so if you can do nothing else, leaning into those groups can help right now.
[Photo: Unsplash/Alexander Andrews]