Despite the “completed” rollout of the latest round of enhanced unemployment extensions, many people are reporting issues with getting their claim processed and as a result facing long delays in receiving their payments. Here are the main reasons why and where possible I have tried to offer some possible solutions and related articles with more information, which includes comment forums where people have encountered such scenarios and provided state specific tips.
People who forget to action official unemployment agency requests or alerts
Many claimants have had their claim get stuck due to inaction or ignoring critical communication from their state unemployment department. Especially when it comes to new identity verification and documentation requirements as part of all the 2021 program extensions that required existing and potential claimants to take certain validation actions to get the extra benefit weeks added to their account balances. A recent example was in California where many claimants ignored messages or stop payment alerts from the the EDD, which caused their claim to go on-hold and miss several weeks of payments.
Many states are trying to be proactive with communications or claimant actions, but due to old systems and understaffed departments many unfortunate jobless workers have slipped through the cracks. So make sure you are proactive on checking communication (e.g. look in your spam folder) and responding/following-up in a timely manner.
Waiting on identity verification approvals
As part of new legislation to combat rampant fraud associated with the enhanced unemployment benefit programs, especially under PUA, new identity check requirements were put in place to verify claimants and their eligibility for benefits. This has had two adverse effects when it came to unemployment claims. One it has slowed down claims processing as state agencies had to institute these new ID checks or outsource processing to third parties.
Secondly it also inadvertently caught out a lot of legitimate claimants who were flagged as fraudulent in automated system checks. This caused several weeks of delays for many claimants and per the above point if they ignored or missed the official requests for taking required validation actions they saw their claim get stuck.
To combat identity related fraud a number of state unemployment departments, including those in Nevada, Colorado, Arizona, California and New York have turned to third party vendor ID.me and their proprietary A.I. facial recognition software to verify claimant identities ahead of receiving unemployment benefits. There have been issues reported with this system, even with the back-up manual trusted referee manual verification process, but it has led to an overall reduction in fraudulent claims.
Most states and ID.me do provide step-by-step guide on how to deal with identity issues through their app, so review these and ensure you have followed all the verification steps. Most state unemployment agencies and ID.me have said the bulk of issues have been worked through and only a handful of complex cases remain to be resolved.
End of Benefit Year (BYE date)
With many folks getting unemployment for over 12 months, they would have passed their benefit year end mark and would normally need to file a new claim to keeping getting paid. For PUA recipients this has not been a big issue as many state UI agencies automatically continued payments for this group of claimants who wouldn’t qualify for traditional, EB or PEUC unemployment programs.
But for those eligible for the extended PEUC weeks, they would have needed to file a new claim in the majority of states (New Jersey auto processed new claims for BYE) and if they don’t follow their state’s instructions on filing the new claim, generally at or soon after the BYE date, they could have seen their benefits lapse despite being eligible for extended weeks of coverage.
New federal provisions require PUA applications to show wage evidence documentation and/or it they don’t want to accept the base payment. New claimants in 2021 had to provide this documentation within 21 days or their claim would have been suspended. Existing claimants from last year had 90 days. So many who have seen their claim held up has been due to missing documentation that they generally need to load on to their state UI portal. Once the agency accepts and reviews the documentation, they will follow up for more information or restart the claim, including any retroactive payments.
Work Search Requirements
Most states are reinstituting work search requirements which means claimants will need to show evidence for 2 to 5 job searches/contacts (requirements varies by state). Some states – like Florida and Texas – are more thorough than others and have a higher bar and enforcement of work search requirements. If you don’t meet job search requirements, which you normally need to validate when you certify for continuing benefits, your claim could be suspended until you provide the required information.
Because the reintroduction of work search requirements is being done differently on a state-by-state basis, many claimants are seeing their benefit payment suddenly stop and/or face challenges in certifying. If this happens and none of other reasons discussed in this article apply it is likely due to you not showing or submitting evidence of your work searches. Check any correspondence you may have received from your state UI agency or go to their website and look for their new/reintroduced work search requirements.
Early End of Pandemic Unemployment Benefits and $300 payment
Over 25 states have announced an early end to one of more of the pandemic unemployment programs. You can see the full list here, but once the states start cancelling their participation in the programs you will see a termination or reduction in your benefit payments (especially the $300 extra weekly amount). You should receive a notice for this and an update in your claimant portal, but be on the lookout for this to start from mid-June.
The above points are not exhaustive and there are many states who are just behind advancing claims or responding to issues due to antiquated systems or resource constraints which have resulted in claim processing delays through no fault of the claimant.
Also in many cases many claimants think they are eligible for payments (e.g. in the PUA program) but have not carefully read the eligibility criteria and when they apply or asked to reapply for an extension their claim gets denied. They assume it is stuck, but being denied or deemed ineligible is a different issue. However the solutions below may work for cancelled claims as well.
How I Can I Get Help With My Unemployment Claim?
If you do face an issue with your claim getting stuck, denied or being put on hold, make sure you review official communication from your state UI agency or on their website to ensure you get compliant with what they are requesting and provide it via their online portals or to an official site/mailing address. Trying to fix it on your own is where you should start. It is also worth searching online (see our UI resource page) or in the many Facebook groups or forums to see if others have run into the same issue and if they had a legitimate fix. Just be very careful as there are a lot of scammers or malicious actors out there trying to steal your money and never provide sensitive information (SSN, address, phone numbers) to an unofficial or non-verified source.
In some cases, you may also find that the claim hold-o could fix itself if due to a temporary technical glitch being resolved or states finally clearing their massive backlog of pending claims that they need to manually verify. This was the case in Virginia and New York where the $300 FPCU was delayed a few times due to system and bank processing issues.
If you have done all this and still cannot get movement on your stuck or pending claim then the best course of action is to call your state unemployment agency’s customer service call center and get help from an live representative. However, reaching a live agent is no easy task and only around 10% to 20% of calls are being picked up or returned at this time given the massive volume of claims and new programs to manage.
Finally, if you cannot solve the issue around your claim getting stuck on your own or via a live agent then consider contacting your local state representative to try and get them to help with your case. This is not a silver bullet solution but these government officials often have more access to other state agencies and can guide you more effectively (especially if they want your vote in the future!).
I do know some people have contacted the media (real and social) or used alternative approaches to get attention for their pending claim, but it will be hard to get a specific resolution to your case via these means as a lot of times the reason for the claim suspension is specific to the claimant. The best advice at this point, if your claim is eligible, is to stay persistent and patient. Once your claim is approved you will be retroactively paid for any missing weeks. Feel free to leave a comment or question below this article and I’ll try and provide you some general guidance.