INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - Hundreds of thousands of out-of-work Americans could soon havetheir unemployment benefits restored.
The Senate voted to end a Republican filibuster on the benefitextension. They'll take another vote Tuesday night to pass it.Then, the U.S. House and President Obama have to give it theirstamp of approval.
And that's great news to places like Howard County where nearly13 percent of people don't have a job. But many Hoosiers are facinganother challenge: They qualify for benefits, but still aren'tgetting paid.
Thousands of Hoosiers have lost their jobs because companieshave moved those jobs overseas. When that happens, those unemployedHoosiers are eligible for benefits through the Trade AdjustmentAssistance program or TAA. But many in the program tell us theyhaven'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 ofthe state. Delphi's empty weed-strewn employee parking lot tellstale of the once thriving plant.
David Arnold worked at Delphi until he was laid off lastyear.
Arnold was supposed to receive unemployment benefits through theTrade Adjustment Assistance program which provides education andretraining for workers who lose their jobs because of the impact ofinternational trade. But Arnold has received no pay from theprogram for six weeks.
When his unemployment benefits ran out, his TAA benefits weresupposed to kick in. They haven't. And he employees at the state'sWorkOne offices are unable to provide answers.
That's the case for thousands of out-of-work Hoosiers who havebeen waiting for weeks for TAA benefits. Robin Woods is among them.Our camera is not allowed inside WorkOne offices, but we askedWoods to wear our microphone as she asked about her benefits.
She can be heard asking an employee at the WorkOne office inKokomo, "Is there a reason why the vouchers weren't generated thatSunday? 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 inIndianapolis.
Woods then asked, "When you sent the email down, do they takecare 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 comesto her WorkOne office. She was evicted from her apartment becauseshe's gotten only one voucher in six weeks and can't pay herrent.
We asked Marc Lotter, the spokesman for the Department ofWorkforce Development, whether DWD is sufficiently staffed toprocess the volume of paperwork generated by the TAA program.
"Basically one of the things that we have to do, we have to makesure that that paperwork is turned in throughout the time, getsverified out in the field, gets turned into us, where we re-verifyit and enter it into the system. We're working to get all of thesepeople 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 sixweeks?
"All I can tell you is that once they are processed, they'll getall of the back payments that are coming to them," said Lotter.
Lotter called later to say that all the TAA participants in thestate who have filed the proper paperwork should get their voucherson Sunday.
But the extension of unemployment benefits could complicatematters for the workers. The TAA program provides benefits for 156weeks. TAA benefits are supposed to kick in after unemploymentbenefits 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 neededpaperwork for unemployment benefits, causing potentially anotherdelay for the unemployed in the TAA program.
It will likely take two weeks to reinstate unemployment for the80,000 unemployed Hoosiers who are expected to be eligible for theextension.
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