Updated: Tuesday, 20 Jul 2010, 7:29 PM EDT
Published : Tuesday, 20 Jul 2010, 7:29 PM EDT
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - Hundreds of thousands of out-of-work Americans could soon have their unemployment benefits restored.
The Senate voted to end a Republican filibuster on the benefit extension. They'll take another vote Tuesday night to pass it. Then, the U.S. House and President Obama have to give it their stamp of approval.
And that's great news to places like Howard County where nearly 13 percent of people don't have a job. But many Hoosiers are facing another challenge: They qualify for benefits, but still aren't getting paid.
Thousands of Hoosiers have lost their jobs because companies have moved those jobs overseas. When that happens, those unemployed Hoosiers are eligible for benefits through the Trade Adjustment Assistance program or TAA. But many in the program tell us they haven't been paid for weeks.
24-Hour News 8 visited Kokomo and found two such workers. Unemployed Hoosiers aren't hard to find in this hard-hit area of the state. Delphi's empty weed-strewn employee parking lot tells tale of the once thriving plant.
David Arnold worked at Delphi until he was laid off last year.
Arnold was supposed to receive unemployment benefits through the Trade Adjustment Assistance program which provides education and retraining for workers who lose their jobs because of the impact of international trade. But Arnold has received no pay from the program for six weeks.
When his unemployment benefits ran out, his TAA benefits were supposed to kick in. They haven't. And he employees at the state's WorkOne offices are unable to provide answers.
That's the case for thousands of out-of-work Hoosiers who have been waiting for weeks for TAA benefits. Robin Woods is among them. Our camera is not allowed inside WorkOne offices, but we asked Woods to wear our microphone as she asked about her benefits.
She can be heard asking an employee at the WorkOne office in Kokomo, "Is there a reason why the vouchers weren't generated that Sunday? They give you a reason at all?"
The employee mumbled, "We don't know what it is."
Work One employees did say they have sent an email to leaders in Indianapolis.
Woods then asked, "When you sent the email down, do they take care of most of them right away?"
The employee answered, "I really don't know."
Woods says that's the answer she gets every week when she comes to her WorkOne office. She was evicted from her apartment because she's gotten only one voucher in six weeks and can't pay her rent.
We asked Marc Lotter, the spokesman for the Department of Workforce Development, whether DWD is sufficiently staffed to process the volume of paperwork generated by the TAA program.
"Basically one of the things that we have to do, we have to make sure that that paperwork is turned in throughout the time, gets verified out in the field, gets turned into us, where we re-verify it and enter it into the system. We're working to get all of these people processed as quickly as we possibly can."
But should that process take six weeks?
"It can take six weeks", he replied.
So what are the unemployed supposed to live on during that six weeks?
"All I can tell you is that once they are processed, they'll get all of the back payments that are coming to them," said Lotter.
Lotter called later to say that all the TAA participants in the state who have filed the proper paperwork should get their vouchers on Sunday.
But the extension of unemployment benefits could complicate matters for the workers. The TAA program provides benefits for 156 weeks. TAA benefits are supposed to kick in after unemployment benefits run out. So when unemployment benefits are available, workers will receive vouchers from that program, not TAA.
That means state workers will have to submit the needed paperwork for unemployment benefits, causing potentially another delay for the unemployed in the TAA program.
It will likely take two weeks to reinstate unemployment for the 80,000 unemployed Hoosiers who are expected to be eligible for the extension.