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I-TEAM: 2 months without paycheck, Georgia woman struggles over small unemployment error

(Source: WRDW)
(Source: WRDW)(WRDW)
Published: May. 26, 2020 at 3:13 PM EDT
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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- More than 200,000 out-of-work Georgians are still waiting on the state to process their unemployment claim since March. Now two months without a paycheck, families are feeling the financial pressure and are desperate for answers from the Department of Labor.

Identity verification problems, missing information, and owed child support are to blame for those unprocessed claims. Claim errors should be easily corrected if you can reach a real live person with the Georgia Department of Labor.

"It’s a pretty real need," Nicole Rabun said. "I have a car payment coming up I have rent coming up. You try to hide it from the kids.”

Life changed immediately for the Rabun family when the doors at Rhinehart's Oyster Bar closed in March. Nicole hasn't been paid for eight weeks. However, there has been her husband's unemployment to help them get by. Still, that check barely covers the bills. Nicole's claim has been pending for months -- all due to one error.

"My employer put in my DOB incorrectly," Rabun said. "They put in 1987, not 1984."

But that one error hasn’t been an easy fix.

“Because they already tried to verify my identity with the Social Security office and they couldn’t it put an ID lock on my account," Rabun said.

She’s emailed. She’s faxed documents. She’s called.

"I start every day calling them at 8 o’clock in the morning to see if I can get anybody," Rabun said.

She's called so many time that she's got the number memorized. She can only laugh as she described her call on Friday to the Georgia Department of Labor.

“I got into the automated system, I pressed two for issues for my claim, and I sat on hold for four hours," Rabun said.

Yes, four hours.

"And at four hours and two minutes it disconnected the call," Rabun said.

“I wanted to cry because at the start of hour three I was like I am not going to hang up. Somebody has to get to me.”

But nobody ever did.

“I mean my husband and I are servers," Rabun said. "We make a lot more than what they are giving us and our bills are based off of what we were making before COVID-19.”

And with only one of them getting unemployment, they are barely making it.

“We can’t go camping because it cost money," Rabun said. "My niece just had a baby not even two weeks ago and we can’t go see them because they live two hours away and I can’t afford the trip.”

All she can do is to continue to smile for her children and remember better times.

We did reach out to the Labor Department last week. We have not heard back, but after we emailed them, Nicole did get a message that she would get her first unemployment check Wednesday.

Copyright 2020 WRDW/WAGT. All rights reserved.

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