More than 40,000 Louisiana residents still rely on unemployment insurance after losing jobs in the pandemic, and many continue t0 run into obstacles getting their benefits.
Tasha Brown, a single mother of three from Harvey, is among those who have encountered difficulties.
“My unemployment is extremely vital,” Brown said. “It is my livelihood. It is how me and my children get by.”
Brown held two jobs that she lost in June. She applied for and started receiving unemployment benefits, and everything was going well until early February.
That’s when Brown went online to the Louisiana Workforce Commission HiRE website to check on her weekly claim status. She clicked on a pop-up notice saying she had a message.
“I go to view my messages, and there was a letter stating I was incarcerated,” Brown said.
WDSU has confirmed that Brown was not and never has been in prison or jail.
“I’m not running from the law either,” Brown said laughing.
Brown said she spent two weeks trying to reach the Louisiana Workforce Commission to learn what led to the mistake. She finally reached someone and ultimately got her status changed, only to see it switched back to “incarcerated” in late March. Brown said the same switch happened again this week, although she has submitted multiple forms of identification to LWC on three occasions.
WDSU contacted the Louisiana Workforce Commission to ask how it verifies incarcerations. The agency’s spokesperson did not respond.
The communications director for the Louisiana Department of Corrections was not aware of any involvement his agency had in the LWC’s eligibility confirmation process.
Brown said someone with the Louisiana Workforce Commission provided her with a phone number when her issue was first corrected in case she had any other problems. When she called that number, Brown said she was told she couldn’t be helped – and not to call the number again.
“This is just a nightmare … and no one can give me any information,” she said.