Until recently, I made part of my money from this blog and the other part as a substitute teacher. On March 13th, Friday the 13th no less, the school system where I worked closed for the coronavirus. So I have had a difficult time with filing for unemployment since. Before I share my story, let’s say I made $1000 a month substituting and $1000 a month blogging. That isn’t the exact amount, it varies monthly, but keep this in mind. It will matter later.
Filing For Unemployment – 4 Weeks, Still No Check – Here’s My Story
Here is how my filing for unemployment has gone so far:
Week #1: March 16-20
I called the Virginia Employment Commission repeatedly and each time I was given a message that the call wait time was longer than normal. Then it would tell me to call again later and hang up on me. I was never given the option either to hold or to get a callback.
I also tried to file online repeatedly but the site would be “unavailable” or it would lock up in the middle of my filing. So, I never got to even file for unemployment this week at all.
Week #2: March 23-27
I was finally able to file for unemployment this week. However, the site kept giving me the same questions over and over and it asked me about jobs from like 15 years ago that weren’t even relevant. I was also asked many questions that I had no idea how to answer. I mean, I was able to work, but then also I wasn’t, since my job closed and we were asked to stay home. I found it really confusing.
I tried to call repeatedly to get help and, again, I was given the message about long wait times and unexpected call volumes. Then it would tell me to call back later and hang up on me.
I had finally gotten out from under the huge financial crisis I had after I had my heart attack a year and a half ago and I could see it all slipping away from me again. This is the first time I cried over the situation and I actually started to worry about how or if I would be able to pay my bills. I’m single and live alone. If I’m not paying my bills, no one is.
Week #3: March 30-April 3
I decided to try a new approach. I set my alarm for 8:14 AM on Monday, March 30th. The Virginia Unemployment Commission starts taking calls at 8:15 AM. As soon as the alarm went off I started calling repeatedly until the lines open. I was 9th in line with a 2 hour hold time! YES! I was going to hold that entire 2 hours if that is what it took. About 10 minutes into the hold, I was offered a callback option from the system and I was assured that callbacks would occur in the order people were in line. That was before 8:30 AM.
It was a long stressful day of keeping my phone constantly at my side, but I finally got a callback around 5 or 6 that evening. The man was really nice but he wouldn’t help me without a PIN number, which I had not yet received. So, it was pretty much pointless.
I was back to waiting. I heard nothing the rest of that week, nor did I receive my PIN.
Week #4: April 6-10
This past Monday, I did the same thing as I did the Monday previously. I got the 90something position in line with an 8 hour hold time. It offered me the callback option and I took it. That was before 8:30 AM. To my surprise, I got a callback before 10:30 AM!
Unfortunately, this woman did not act like the man I spoke to last week. I told her my fears that I had filled out the form wrong due to the website being overloaded and how I needed help correcting it if necessary. I told her also about how some of my money comes from a school system and the rest comes from self employment and I wanted to know how I could ensure I still receive both incomes. She continuously cut me off and would not answer the questions I was asking her, talking over me and speaking instead to me like I was a child not listening. I get it. Her job is tough right now. But at least she is getting a paycheck. I am on my 4th week without steady income.
The only things I ended up getting from that conversation was her telling me I had been denied because they had me in the wrong quarter for last year. All I was credited with making was one day’s pay at the school – of course my self employment wasn’t counted at all. She said that she moved me to the correct quarter and that I would receive 2 week’s payment within 24 to 48 hours. That was Monday. Today is Thursday. And I have received nothing. And I still don’t know if my form is filled out correctly.
I did end up receiving both my PIN code and my denial letter this week though. So there’s that. Yay.
Also, the VEC lady told me that anything I make from self employment will be taken out of unemployment. So here is where that total I gave you from before matters. If I make $1000 dollars from my blog this month and I am granted $1000 a month from unemployment this month, they will only “allow” me $50, so I will get a $50 check. That means that for the entire month, I will make $1000 from my blog and $50 from unemployment, so $1050 [when I would have made $2000 before this virus].
I am also making less now from my blog because who’s traveling right now? No one is hiring me to travel and cover their area on social media or on this site. No one is able to travel right now, so why pay for advertising? Also, people are cleaning the shelves of any necessities and refusing to spend on anything else. So that means fewer companies of goods and services advertising on this blog.
And there is that entire week that I won’t be paid for at all since I couldn’t file – through no fault of my own. I am not rich. I live paycheck to paycheck as I am sure most of my readers do. I can’t just not get paid for a week and it not hurt.
Filing For Unemployment: The Takeaway
If I manage to make a few hundred dollars a month from my blog now, that will be taken from my unemployment – IF I ever even get approved or actually receive anything at all. So, for me, what was even the point filing for unemployment? Unless I get that $600 a week extra from the government – which I was told by the lady at the VEC isn’t even going out yet – I can’t really see one. I can’t get help via phone and I really just don’t know where else to get it. So, unless I am missing something, all this talking on TV about how people who are self employed or those who have small businesses will be covered, too, is bull. Am I missing something?
How are you guys doing who are filing for unemployment? Do you have similar stories or was your process easier? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below or on social media.