Disabled but working, denied unemployment in North Carolina

Disabled but working, denied unemployment in North Carolina

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - For the last year Terrence Fenner, who goes by T-Man, has been working at the Wells Fargo Distribution Center.

“I organize and sort brochures and put them in nap kits,” T-Man said.

T-Man has autism. With the help of Lindsey Braciale, T-Man has earned two degrees, an apartment and a steady job.

However, T-Man was laid off in January and is currently struggling to find work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

So he thought “I’ll apply for unemployment,” Braciale said.

“He submitted all the paperwork and he got a denial because they said someone with a disability, who has received disability payments in the past, does not qualify.”

Braciale says the unemployment office told her he was ineligible by state law.

“These laws that are written in a way that disincentivizes people from going back to work and being self sufficient,” Braciale said.

T-Man isn’t alone.

“He had gotten back to work and he’s almost being punished for it in a way,” Elizabeth Biseti said about her husband.

Biseti’s husband had surgery for clubfoot and was on disability for a year before getting a job at a restaurant. But he lost his job shortly thereafter when the restaurant went to take-out only.

She says she wrote a letter to Governor Roy Cooper’s Office asking for help but hasn’t gotten a response.

“We were told by the governor that anyone who was affected by the coronavirus and laid off by it would get unemployment,” Biseti said.

Likewise Biseti said she hasn’t received any help.

WBTV reached out to the North Carolina Department of Commerce for clarification about why people who were in disability were being denied.

A spokesperson wrote that people who were on disability should not be ineligible for unemployment benefits.

“If you are working and receiving disability, then you should be eligible for unemployment insurance as long as you are otherwise able and available for work,” spokesperson Larry Parker wrote.

“It’s possible the individuals didn’t have enough money in the base period to establish a claim.”

Parker said the Department of Commerce is waiting on guidance from the United States Department of Labor on the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.

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