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‘I can’t get any help’: Alabama’s unemployment rate is down, but problems with unemployment claims system continue

Updated: Apr. 22, 2021 at 2:34 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Martha Moore made it through the pandemic without losing her job at a local car dealership, until the owner decided it wasn’t worth it anymore and shut down.

“Our business closed after about 30 years, about 2.5 weeks ago,” Moore reports.

Moore had never had to file an unemployment claim in her life. After trying to get some help filing her first, she wishes she’d never had to deal with this system to begin with.

“Oh my God you cannot speak to a live person,” Moore complains. “They give you a number to call everyday at 5 p.m. and by 5:03, 600 people have already lined up. There’s no way in three minutes.”

Moore says someone tried to file a fraudulent claim under her name last year while she was still happily at work, and that created an issue in getting her legitimate benefits this time. That’s why she’s spent weeks calling five days a week right at 5 p.m., trying to get 1 of the 600 daily appointments with the Department of Labor for help.

“I started at 4:59 p.m. like I was told at the career center, and by 5:03 they told me 600 slots had been taken for the next day,” Moore says.

“We’re doing the best we can with the numbers we have, we just encourage them to continue trying to get through,” says Alabama Dept. of Labor spokesperson Kelly Betts.

Alabama’s unemployment rate is down to just under 4 percent, and even though ADOL’s trained some of its other staff to help, now months into this new appointment system unemployed workers like Moore are still being turned away daily.

“There’s less of a demand certainly, but you can look at the unemployment rate as 3.8%, but that represents thousands of people still unemployed,” says Betts. “So when you have that kind of volume, it’s going to continue to fill up really quickly and that’s what’s happening. We’re constantly trying to add more people that can answer these phone calls. We have been cross training some of our existing career center staff to help.”

But all of those extra hands haven’t helped Moore yet, and her savings won’t last long.

“Not long,” predicts Moore. “Couple weeks. I had saved some money so that helped a little bit, but it wasn’t a lot. I’m single and all the bills are on me.”

ADOL has open jobs for workers who can help handle these claims, but it takes months of training to be ready to handle the claims, which means they don’t see any immediate help.

They also suggest using the email address online. Moore says she’s tried that and even emailed Governor Ivey, but hasn’t heard anything back yet.

Here’s the link to the ADOL help site.

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