Thirty million Americans have applied for unemployment benefits over the last six weeks. This is the story of one of those Americans.
On February 27, fifty-two-year-old Hans Theyer applied for unemployment insurance benefits for the first time in his working life. “I found the process on the website rather simple, which I appreciated,” Theyer – who had been working for an NGO in Washington, DC -- told Union City. But no benefits arrived. “I thought, okay, they're doing paperwork, they're overwhelmed because of the virus.” Logging onto the Department of Employment Services website yielded no answers. When he called, he waited in vain for hours for a live response. Finally, more than a month later, Theyer was notified that he was ineligible for benefits because he’d failed to verify his identity. He’d never received an email from DOES, which never bothered to follow up. “And together with that notification came a sheet that said if you need help, please contact” the Metro Washington Council’s Claimant Advocacy Program. Theyer admits that he was skeptical at first of a free service, but what he found at CAP was “a human being absolutely passionate about helping you succeed.”
Once he reached CAP attorney Lolita Martin, things finally began to move. “She responded in writing that same day and followed up with a call. She gave me a heads up of what this might look like in terms of the process and what she expected.” Theyer’s benefits depended on the outcome of a hearing in the case, which was scheduled for earlier this week. “I'm a professional, and I understand certain things, but I have never witnessed the logistics and the dynamics of a (UI) hearing,” Theyer said. “Without Lolita's intervention on my behalf in the conversation, I'm telling you, I wouldn't have been able to manage whatsoever.” This story, though long and painful, does have a happy ending, with the judge ruling within an hour that Theyer was entitled not only to full benefits, but to retroactive payments.
CAP services are available to those filing for DC UI; click here to find out more, including other available resources.
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Disparities, Workers, and Community Responses to COVID 19: A Public Forum: Thu, April 30, 2:00pm – 3:30pm
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Arlington Dems Labor Caucus: Thu, April 30, 6pm – 7pm
Rent strike car rally: Fri, May 1, 10am – 12pm
4949 Seminary Rd, Alexandria, VA
System In Crisis: A Working-Class Vision For The Future: Fri, May 1, 5pm – 7pm
NoVA Coalition to Repeal RTW: Harold Meyerson: Fri, May 1, 7pm – 8pm
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Rent strike gains traction locally
Jobs With Justice and partners are calling for a national rent strike on May 1st unless big banks and corporate landlords cancel the rent. “We are asking people to sign the pledge and call out corporate landlords like Equity Residential’s Sam Nell,” says JWJ organizer Sam Nelson. Locally, residents at the Southern Towers residential complex in Alexandria – many of them service workers and members of Unite Here Local 23 -- have been organizing. Tenants and other supporters rallied last week outside of Southern Towers in cars making slow circles through the parking lot with signs and chants of “No pay! No Rent!” and “No job! No Rent!” “NoVA Labor is supporting the Southern Towers rent strikers by participating in car rallies, by demanding that the governor impose a rent moratorium, by donating food, and by providing unemployment insurance assistance,” said NoVA Labor president Virginia Diamond. “There has never been a more important moment for workers to rise up together.” The JWJ national pledge and demands can be found here. If your organization wants to support the strike you can email [email protected] for the toolkit.
photo: SEIU 32bj organizer Guillermo Zamora
The Office of Personnel Management has established an Emergency COVID-19 Relief Fund Campaign for federal employees and retirees who wish to make tax deductible contributions to the Community Services Agency and other charities helping workers and communities during the COViD-19 crisis. "This is a special opportunity for metro Washington federal workers and retirees to support nonprofit organizations like CSA that are on the frontlines, helping workers who are unexpectedly facing economic disaster," said CSA Executive Director Sonte DuCote. Federal employees and retirees can make a tax deductible contribution to CSA by clicking here and using Combined Federal Campaign Number 19579. "Now more than ever, nonprofits are part of the engine that keeps our communities strong during this crisis," she added. The campaign will end June 30.
photo: DuCote and AFGE Local 2782 president Johnny Zuagar at a CFC event at the Census Bureau in January