A Nevada man reportedly waited 7 months to get unemployment benefits, but he was evicted and died months later

uber passenger driver
  • A report from Bloomberg Businessweek found half of those who applied for unemployment didn’t get any.
  • One recipient, Ralph Wyncoop, applied in May 2020 and only got them the following December.
  • After having a heart attack and losing his home, he moved into his car. He was found dead in March 2021.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Millions of Americans applied for unemployment benefits during the pandemic and either didn’t get them or had to wait for months, according to a new report from Bloomberg Businessweek. Half of applicants either got rejected or didn’t get them, the report said, and the wait was deadly for some.

One person profiled, Ralph Wyncoop, was an Uber driver in Las Vegas who was rejected from regular unemployment. He applied to the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, a federal program that expanded unemployment insurance eligibility to gig workers, which opened in May 2020. Wyncoop was eligible for $455 a week, but he didn’t receive the money right away and ended up joining a lawsuit.

Eventually, his PUA application was rejected in July; Leah Jones, one of the lawyers working with him, told Businessweek that he was told he needed to show a utility bill, but his landlord had paid that expense.

Relief didn’t come for Wyncoop until the day before Christmas, when benefits finally arrived. In the interim, he had a heart attack over the summer, and was evicted in October. Technically, a national eviction moratorium is still in place through the end of July 2021, but Businessweek reports that he slept in his car following his eviction. On March 17, according to the report, Wyncoop was found dead in a motel.

Wyncoop was one of millions who found themselves at the mercy of a patchwork unemployment system. The report found that only half of the 64.3 million Americans who applied for benefits from March 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021, were either turned down, or never received money.

Many Americans found themselves staring down ailing state unemployment systems as the pandemic ravaged the economy. Insider’s Nick Lichtenberg and Allana Akhtar reported in September 2020 that at least 35 states had struggled to get benefits out to workers, as state-run systems were overwhelmed by an unprecedented number of claims.

Some senators have seized on these state-system failures to call for permanent reforms to the UI system, with Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Michael Bennet of Colorado introducing a plan that would beef up benefits and modernize the system’s infrastructure. Such legislation has not yet passed in Congress.

Even as some jobless workers struggled to access any aid, over half of the states in the US have opted to cut off enhanced federal benefits early. That decision – which governors have said is meant to compel workers back into the workforce amidst labor market tightness – will impact an estimated 4 million Americans. For many of those who are on programs like PUA, which made gig workers like Wyncoop eligible for aid, benefits will end completely.

There may be some relief for those workers getting cut off, though: A judge in Indiana recently granted a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit brought by cut off workers against the state. That decision may preserve benefits for thousands of jobless Hoosiers.

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All of the states offering workers cash incentives to get back to work

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Goldman Sachs said the latest US unemployment figures were encouraging.

  • Amidst a so-called labor shortage, some GOP-led states are ending federal unemployment benefits early.
  • But at least four are offering one-time cash bonuses to workers who return to the workforce.
  • In Connecticut, which hasn’t ended unemployment benefits early, long-term unemployed workers can get a bonus.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Arizona

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey coronavirus update
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey.

Arizona is dropping the federal unemployment benefits on July 10. But the state is setting up a cash program to replace it.

It’s using money from the recent stimulus law to fund a one-time bonus of $2,000 for eligible people who return to work full-time. It’ll be $1,000 for those working part-time. The cash is distributed once a person completes ten weeks of work with an employer.

They also must earn $25 an hour or less and start working by Labor Day. Individuals filing for jobless aid after May 13 don’t qualify. 

In a press release. Gov. Doug Ducey said that the state was aiming to pay people to work, rather than “paying people not to work.”

Montana

greg gianforte
Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte.

Montana’s federal unemployment benefits will come to an end on June 27. But workers who find employment could see a $1,200 bonus.

“We need to incentivize Montanans to reenter the workforce,” Gov. Greg Gianforte said in a statement. “Our return-to-work bonus and the return to pre-pandemic unemployment programs will help get more Montanans back to work.”

Workers who were on UI benefits on May 4 are eligible for the bonus; they must work for at least four weeks. According to the Montana Free Press, there’s enough money for 12,500 workers to receive payouts. The program will come to a close in October, a month after the current expanded unemployment benefits are set to expire.

New Hampshire

chris sununu
Gov. Chris Sununu.

New Hampshire is winding down its participation in federal unemployment benefits effective June 19, according to New Hampshire Public Radio. But residents who return to work could see a summer bonus.

Gov. Chris Sununu announced a $10 million pot, funded by federal relief, that will provide workers with one-time bonuses. New Hampshire Public Radio reports that those who work full-time for eight consecutive weeks could get $1,000, and part-time workers could get $500. To be eligible, workers must make under $25 an hour.  

“There are plenty of jobs, and we really want people to get back out there,” Sununu said, per the outlet.

Oklahoma

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Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt.

Oklahoma announced a similar program to entice unemployed workers back into the workforce. It’s also moving to end its participation in federal unemployment benefits, with benefits ending effective June 26. 

But the first 20,000 Oklahomans on unemployment benefits who return to work will get a $1,2000 bonus — paid for by American Rescue Plan funds. 

“For Oklahoma to become a Top Ten state, workforce participation must be at a top level and I am committed to doing what I can to help Oklahomans get off the sidelines and into the workforce,” Gov. Kevin Stitt said in a statement.

To be eligible, workers must have received unemployment benefits between May 2 and May 15. They must complete six consecutive weeks of work for the same employer; payments will begin going out in mid-July.

Blue state Connecticut is also getting in on the action

Gov. Ned Lamont.
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont.

Connecticut’s not ending federal unemployment benefits, but it is offering cash bonuses to workers who find employment after being out of work for an extended period of time.

Workers who are long-term unemployed — who the Bureau of Labor Statistics defines as those who have been looking for work for at least 27 weeks — could get a $1,000 one-time bonus.

Gov. Ned Lamont said that 10,000 workers will receive the payment. To be eligible, they must have filed for unemployment in the week before May 30, and subsequently obtain a new job and work full-time for eight consecutive weeks.

“This is the latest too in our toolbox to maximize our state’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic,” Lamont said in a statement.

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