BERRIEN COUNTY, Mich. — A southwest Michigan man is fed up with Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency.
He’s only waiting for two weeks of benefits but got a strange letter from the UIA.
“I’m a COVID-19 migrant or transplant. I’ve been working and living in Chicago up through last year,” said Joseph Hernandez.
He’s spent more than 20 years of his life as a chef.
After being furloughed from McCormick Place in Chicago, he got recruited to work in the village of Three Oaks in Berrien County.
He moved to Michigan for a job at Froehlich’s.
“Mid-January we got laid off for a two-week period,” he said. “There was absolutely no business. COVID-19 numbers were soaring in the area and so we closed for a little bit.”
Hernandez filed for unemployment the very first day of his layoff and it’s been a nightmare ever since.
“I’ve been told to be patient, that it should be coming, I should be getting an answer soon and it just never happened,” he told FOX 17.
Hernandez is only looking for two weeks of benefits as he’s now back on the job. He’s been told over and over that his case is being reviewed.
“And she said, ‘wait for the agency to respond, the agency’s been backed up there’s no timeline for an expected response’ just when they get around to it, she said,’ give it a few weeks give it some more time.’”
The most bizarre thing about his case is a reconsideration document from the UIA regarding his Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).
It says in part, “the work from which you are unemployed, underemployed, unable or unavailable from due to COVID – is not located in Michigan.
“It’s right there,” he said as he turned the camera to face outside. “I don’t know if you can see out this window, but I live right next door to work.”
Hernandez documented his attempts to reach the agency showing his ID verification went through in February.
A couple days later he wrote in asking about his money. Then in March, made two six-minute phone calls.
When the agency called back he was told he had an open claim in Illinois.
Remember, Hernandez was laid off there but says he stopped filing and collecting in that state when he got the job in Michigan.
“I’m basically stuck with very little information,” he said. “I applied through the proper channels, was told that I was certifying and after two weeks I said I was back to work and it closed out my claim.”
Hernandez is still waiting for information from Illinois trying to find out if a claim’s still open there, and if so, why.
But the layoff here in Michigan is also causing problems as he’s still waiting for benefits half a year later.
“I would call monthly, I would email monthly, and the general response is – there’s no supervisor to talk to, they’re backlogged, just be patient you’ve been approved just give it a couple more weeks for my payment and it would not happen,” he said.
I did reach out to the Illinois Department of Employment Security, but a spokesperson told me due to state law it could not comment on his claim.
I did send his claim into Michigan for the UIA to look into.