Some Alabamians still awaiting first unemployment payments

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – For months, the Alabama Department of Labor has struggled to keep up with the demand for unemployment insurance due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Every day ADOL is receiving upwards of 210,000 calls per day,” explained ADOL Spokesperson Tara Hutchinson. “We have around 300 employees who can answer those calls.”

ADOL has set up two third-party call centers but Huntsville resident, Kayla Cook, said still her calls have gone unanswered for 11 weeks.

“I’ve spent everyday, hours trying to get in touch with somebody and they’re always saying it’s busy,” she said.

Currently Cook said all she can do is hope to have her call answered or drive nearly three hours and wait in line to speak to an ADOL employee in person.

“You’re having to go out of your way to go to Montgomery,” Cook explained. “If you’re not like there at the right time, and they only take like 400 people a day, they just tell you you’ve got to leave. You can’t even go in and see them.”

But the Department of Labor said that could change soon. Some local employment offices are training employees to handle claim information.

“They’re actually finishing up that training this week we hope that they’ll be able to provide some basic UC services within the next week or so,” Hutchinson said.

The Alabama Department of Labor says the number of initial claims per week has decreased by tens of thousands, primarily because the state has reopened and people are going back to work.

But Cook said that’s not her reality. “My job’s not supposed to go back until September 7.”

After months of filing weekly claim certifications to no avail, the mother of two hopes things turn around soon.

“I just wish they at least just talked to me, just tell me I mean if you don’t want to give the money or something’s wrong,” said Cook. “Just at least let me know, don’t just leave me hanging and not tell me nothing, send me an email, call me something.”

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