This is not the way life should be for Kathy Verlinden – or anyone.
This week she spent her time packing her bags at the $500-a-month Covina apartment she’s on the verge of having to leave.
She spends moments now wondering what it’s going to be like to have to live in a homeless shelter – the first time in her 56 years that she’s ever had to face that prospect. That’s because her unemployment check – the one she’s depended on for the two years since she was laid off – hasn’t come.
Instead of the regular Notice of Unemployment Insurance Claim that comes every two weeks – the one she has to fill out and send back to the Employment Development Department, before she gets her money — she got a letter from the state.
She’s eligible for 14 weeks of extended unemployment benefits recently approved by Congress.
Something to cheer about? You’d think.
But getting those benefits has become a problem – for now, the letter, dated Nov. 20, went on.
“EDD cannot file any of the new extended claims until we have the necessary programming in place,” it said.
The “complexity” of the federal government’s extension program is a “challenge” for the states to deliver, the letter said. While EDD is working on the “programming” problem as quickly as it can, it make take several weeks before unemployed people, dependent on those checks, get their money, the letter said.
For the EDD, it comes down to a computer glitch. Its 25-to-30-year-old programs couldn’t process the extension fast enough.
The department’s most recent update said programming required to fix the problem is in place, and claim forms could be going out in the next two weeks – if testing goes well with the system.
For Verlinden and the 111,000 people in California who have run out of benefits, it’s much more. Several weeks? Two days? For Verlinden, the bureaucratic delay in adjusting to the extension is one day too long for people on the verge of being evicted, who can’t make a payment, who can’t even afford the most basic of items.
She is one of them.
“It’s embarrassing when you have to ask a friend to buy you toilet paper because you can’t afford it,” Verlinden said.
She’s not the only one suffering.
She directed me to a website called www.unemployed-friends.com, a forum for people without jobs.
Many are desperately wondering what they’ll do as a bureaucratic glitch threatens the roof over their head.
Bureaucratic glitches happen. And maybe this is even an honest one. But it doesn’t excuse it. How could this happen in a state with over 12 percent unemployment, and in the San Gabriel Valley, where in some cities it’s more than 15 percent? It seems this delay to update some state system could really mean the roof over someone’s head.
I know Verlinden wants some answers from a state employment department that says its working around the clock (but of course is closed on the first three Fridays of every month) to solve the problem.
She’s owed nearly $2,000 for money she’d been banking on since the federal extension.
Don’t get Verlinden wrong. She’d rather not have to deal with claim forms and money from the government. It’s something she never envisioned she would have to do back when she worked as a receptionist for a mortgage lender only two years ago.
She still has pride, and her dignity. Going to the government is not in her politics or her DNA.
She’s made some calls… Rep. Judy Chu’s office, Assemblyman Ed Hernandez. But she’s still on the verge of a shelter.
It would be another body blow in a two-year span in which she’s lost her car, her previous home and her health insurance.
Cynicism is sinking in. She wonders how much interest the government is drawing off unemployment money that it’s holding. And so is a sense of injustice.
She smiles, sips a drink of a Carl’s Jr. coffee…
“This just isn’t right,” she said. “Nobody should be going through this.”