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Denied after doing everything right, Wisconsinites express frustration with unemployment system

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MADISON (WKOW) -- It's been almost seven months to the day since Debrah Nelson filed her first unemployment claim in March.

"The waiting is so frustrating, and it's all you think about," she said Friday. "I check that website probably twice a day."

Nelson had to stop working in March when the pandemic started. She's high risk, and her doctor said it was unsafe.

So, she filed her claim and started waiting.

On October 2, her claim was denied. However, Nelson didn't do anything wrong when she filed her claim.

Ben Jedd, the communications director for the Department of Workforce Development, said in an email to 27 News, "Federal regulations require that claimants must apply for regular unemployment insurance and be denied before they are eligible to apply for pandemic unemployment assistance."

Nelson had waited in line for seven months just to find out she had to go to the back of another line.

"I said, 'Okay. I'm starting all over again,'" she said. "I thought I was in for another four months of waiting."

She filed her claim for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance on October 3. Two days later, her claim was approved.

"All of a sudden I look at my bank account and there was all these deposits of checks," she said. "I called the credit union because I wasn't sure they were real."

Even though Nelson's journey navigating the unemployment system ended with her getting her benefits, she said she's still frustrated by the hoops she had to jump through.

"It could have been handled better, and it disappoints me in my government to know that," she said.

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the state, Nelson said she's making plans in case she has to stop working again.

She works at a grocery store where she comes in contact with a lot of people, and she said she's not willing to risk her or her family's health.

"I don't have a choice," she said. "I don't want to be a statistic."

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Caroline Dade

Reporter/Multimedia Journalist, 27 News

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