BALLWIN, Mo. – Fox 2/News 11 had an exclusive follow up on a huge issue from the Missouri Town Hall special report featuring the entire Missouri congressional delegation: mounting frustrations over delays in unemployment benefits.
“Trying to contact the unemployment office, it’s a nightmare. It’s a nightmare,” said Kimberle Jones, a former state worker.
Jones spent hours on the phone trying to pinpoint the hold up in her benefits. She’s one of nearly 33.5 million Americans who’ve filed jobless claims since mid-March, more than 600,000 of them in Missouri.
Fox 2 shared her email with Congresswoman Ann Wagner (R-Ballwin) during Thursday evening’s town hall.
“It’s been seven weeks and I still have no income,” her email said.
“Kimberle, I know the frustration and pain you’re going through,” Wagner said.
Wagner’s staff followed up with Jones Friday.
Jones has yet to get benefits through the Missouri Department of Labor’s overwhelmed Division of Employment Security. Congress only approves the aid. States distribute it.
Still, Wagner said her staff would help any constituent who needed to speed it up.
“We have spoken with Kimberle,” Wagner said. “We’re working on her case along with a lot of others. This is what our entire team is doing. This is what I’m doing. This is our job; to help people who are scared, desperate.”
“I have creditors calling me about my phone bill, my internet bill. My rent is due. It’s just really frustrating,” Jones said.
She has two 16-year-old dependents.
Wagner and Jones agreed the coronavirus pandemic was tragic in terms of both the economy and public health.
The $3 trillion in federal aid already approved, extends unemployment benefits to 33 weeks in Missouri, Wagner said.
She favors letting that work into the economy as the state reopens with protocols like masks and social distancing before there’s another round of aid.
“The key here is to give people the confidence to open back up, to get out, to go to the restaurants, to go to that retail shop…we have to get there because right now this is not sustainable from a public health or an economic standpoint,” Wagner said. “I hope Speaker Pelosi doesn’t bring us back and try to jam something that’s partisan.”
“The extension is going to last until July. It seems like it’s going to take me until July until I get any money,” Jones said.
If there is a positive, the pace of new unemployment claims has slowed dramatically in Missouri: about 52,000 this week, down from more than 104,000 in late March.