7 On Your Side: Unemployment benefits

It's no doubt bad enough to lose your job, but some say the process of claiming unemployment benefits has them at wits end.

"They used to have a number you could dial in there and get a real person, but not no more," complains Alvin Hebert, a 69-year-old unemployed coastal crew boat captain.

Hebert said he's been through a bureaucratic nightmare for weeks as he tries to collect unemployment benefits. He prefers to deal with the Louisiana Workforce Commission by phone.

"I'm computer illiterate. I try to do it by phone. They keep cutting me off in the middle of the phone conversation. The phone's been out of order two months in Baton Rouge and they don't seem to want to fix nothing," said Hebert.

And when he goes to the Local Career Solutions office, he said he cannot get the help he needs.

"The reason I contacted you ... is because every time I go to the unemployment here in Lake Charles and try to get them to help me with something they say they can't do it. They tell me to go outside and find somebody who knows how to operate a computer and go back. I've been going through it for almost a year off and on. They keep cutting me off for no reason and they can't explain to me why," said Hebert.

So, for two hours, at the Calcasieu Central Library, he works on submitting online information to try to get his benefits coming again.

Library manager Clare Coleman said they help as much as they can but, "We cannot be inputting people's personal information. It's not safe for someone to come in and just give their Social Security information to a total stranger even though we are government employees and you should trust us and can, it's just not wise," said Coleman.

And they have a similar rule at Career Solutions which is mostly there to help people find jobs.

Gail Johnson, at the library reference desk, watches us for two hours and sees the frustration.

"I knew when you sat down it was going to be a lengthy process," said Johnson.

When asked how he knew that, Johnson said: "Because people come in here every week sometimes, three and four times a week for assistance. It's very frustrating to the person getting their unemployment because they don't know how to work the computer. They don't understand. So they have to keep coming and asking us to come and help them."

Hebert thinks they need to figure out a way to help those for whom the system just doesn't work.

"They owe me about seven weeks unemployment and they haven't paid me and I don't have a job. It's putting me through hardship because its money that I should be getting that I deserve. It creates all kinds of problems I got bills to pay," said Hebert.

After the whole process, it's still unclear whether Hebert's benefits will be resume this week.

A spokesman said the Louisiana Workforce Commission is making it easy to assist job seekers in filing for unemployment and finding employment through the agency's online system called "HIRE."
We hope to follow up this story and find out if there are other agencies that can work with seniors who are not receiving the help they need with their unemployment benefits.

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