Long lines moved slowly Monday at Owensboro Community & Technical College as people from all over the state waited in line for in-person assistance regarding their unemployment claims.
The office was open from 9 a.m.-6 p.m., and many people hoped their claims could be fixed. However, by mid-afternoon, some of those standing outside in the heat and humidity had become frustrated, and many people who showed up without appointments had been standing in line for hours by that time.
Marshala Shepard was left unemployed after Hardee’s on West Parrish Avenue closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. At nearly 3:15 p.m. Monday, Shepard was still waiting to be seen for her 2:45 p.m. appointment.
Dozens of others standing in line — some under a canopy and others sitting in the grass — were still waiting to be seen for their scheduled times as well.
“This is stressful. I tried it online, and that’s why I came here,” Shepard said. “But it’s more frustrating doing it here because they’re not even doing it by appointment. I’m not expecting to get in anytime soon. I really want to reschedule it because it’s so hot.”
After being approved for unemployment online, Shepard said she began receiving notifications that she’d been paid on specific dates, though her account balance remained at zero dollars each time.
“The system is working — it’s just that the pay date shows I’ve been paid, and there’s no balance,” she said. “I haven’t been paid at all. It says the date, but it doesn’t have the amount.”
Karla Thompson-Belk, of Bowling Green, was one of many people who showed up to OCTC from out of town. With her family alongside her, Thompson-Belk said she received only one unemployment check before her claim was deemed “under investigation.”
A long-time employee of American Howa Kentucky Plant, Thompson-Belk said the entire plant was gradually laid off as the plant shut down operations.
“We came to Owensboro because we tried all the other systems and nothing worked,” she said. “People went to Frankfort last week and waited 10 hours. After waiting all day, some of them were told at 7:45 p.m. that they couldn’t be seen.”
Luckily, she said, everyone who’d been seen before she and her family had come out of the OCTC building “with smiles on their faces,” so Thompson-Belk said she believed the issues with her claim could be fixed as well.
Carlos Johnson traveled to Owensboro from Mount Washington, Ky., seeking in-person help regarding his unemployment claim. After waiting 14 hours in Frankfort last week, Johnson said he was eventually helped, but that his unemployment claim got “messed up” by the person who’d helped him.
Johnson was one of several Monday who traveled to Owensboro without an appointment. Frankfort had stopped taking walk-ins he said, so Owensboro was his next best option.
“When they told me I could come here, I got in the car with my son and drove here,” Johnson said.
As for the state’s unemployment website giving so many people problems, Johnson said he believed the issue stemmed from servers that had gone too long without updates, combined with the fact that so many more people were using the site at one time.
“They should have changed the fiber optics a long time ago,” he said. “When they put fiber optics in, it was only built for so much pressure. Now, with so many people not working and staying home, the fiber optics has taken a hit, and it’s gone haywire. So there’s your problem right there. They need to fix it.”