Uptick in unemployment claims as Christmas draws near

Thousands of people awaiting unemployment benefits

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - As jobless North Carolinians start running out of their state unemployment benefits, more of them are starting to apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. Some of those people tell WBTV they’ve been waiting on a determination for their claims for months.

Both Ryan Putnam and Bill Davison wish they hadn’t made the Christmas season list of those people.

They’re both among the 18,000 North Carolinians waiting to find out the status of their unemployment claim.

“Every time I call the only answer is no answer,” Putnam said.

Putnam filed his claim before Thanksgiving but his status is still pending. He had exhausted his state benefits but tells WBTV, as a single father, he has to take care of his daughter in virtual school.

Davison filed in May and his claim for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance still does not have a determination. Davison was working as an Uber driver and says work dried up but other drivers he knows have since received their benefits.

Both of them are waiting for PUA claims, a federal unemployment program carried out by the state. In a memo NCDES said when claim volumes are high, it may take several weeks for the claimant to receive a determination of benefits.

There’s almost a dozen reasons that someone could be eligible for PUA benefits. Both Davison and Putnam believe they qualify but they can’t find out why their claims are held up.

“Other than the most vague reasons of hey we’re looking at it we’re working through the process. Nothing,” Putnam said.

“I realized I need to just call up you all, I don’t know why I was so frozen in the process,” Davison said.

A NCDES spokesperson told WBTV “Eligibility for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is determined on a weekly basis, and the claimant must be out work due to a COVID-19 related reason under the CARES Act each week to receive payment. The individual ceases to be eligible when he or she no longer meets that requirement in a given week.”

In an email to WBTV a DES spokesperson said they’ve improved agent training to improve their performance and that fewer calls are having to get transferred to actual DES staff to answer questions.

BUT DES has still not provided WBTV with records showing what that training is, more than five months after we first asked.

NCDES says they’re reviewing both claims from Putnam and Davison after WBTV reached out.

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