This out-of-work Michigan mom feels like she’s fallen through the cracks since the pandemic started. Now the holidays are approaching fast.
MIDLAND, Mich.—”We will call you.”
That’s been the repeated response that Midland resident Morgan Kieffer* kept hearing regarding her requests for answers to unemployment she was hoping to collect since the spring. She didn’t plan for this year to be financially devastating for her like it has been with her losing her daycare job and struggling from week to week to pay bills as her family is living off of just $400 a month in child support—during a global pandemic to say the least.
The divorced mother with a 16-year-old daughter at home (plus two cats) is “still awaiting my approved unemployment,” she told The ‘Gander nearly eight months into the coronavirus sweeping Michigan.
Kieffer, who battles health issues, previously worked at a local daycare that was forced to close down for a period of time due to COVID-19. When the pandemic first hit in March, she reached out to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for advice, because she is considered medically high-risk.
“I worked in a daycare with preschoolers where I was frequently getting sick and was very concerned about COVID-19,” Kieffer said. “She sent a letter, with information on advising signing up for unemployment, which I did.”
She had no trouble signing up and getting approved for 39 weeks. She even received one direct deposit check from UIA.
“Then got a message from UIA, that they reversed my next check because the account information they had was incorrect,” Kieffer said. “I spoke to my bank twice and each time, it was verified that there was never a second deposit from UIA during that time.” (The deposit could not have been reversed.)
Kieffer was falling through the cracks.
Sorting Through the Mail
In a Sept. 6 email addressed to Whitmer, Jeff Donofrio, then-director of Michigan Department of Labor & Economic Opportunity, and Steve Grey, director of the State of Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) she asks them for help. Kieffer details how she applied for unemployment at Whitmer’s suggestion, and she has yet to receive the money, although she became eligible for it in March.
“None of this has helped,” Kieffer said, adding that she has reached out to other state officials, too. “I have spent much time calling UIA repeatedly and also have tried their chat button, only to always get disconnected. I have also submitted over forty emails to UIA. … Not once, have I ever received a reply back.”
That wasn’t all. The very next day, she was back in the ER with stage three high blood pressure. Due to being high risk for COVID-19 and also being ill (from adenomyosis, endometriosis and fibroid tumors), she was in “rough shape” and was under the doctor’s care to not go back to work until after her complete hysterectomy (and bladder lift). “Two days after the operation, I developed complications, in which my next surgery will be before Thanksgiving [Nov. 22],” Kieffer said.
What does this all mean for Kieffer’s pocket book? It means she’s had to borrow money from family and friends to hold her and her family over until she hears from the government—which she says is very infrequent.
“At one point there was one attempt to call me from [the Unemployment Insurance Agency] quite a while ago. But I was getting a prescription refilled and missed the call. No voice mail or message from them with any information,” Kieffer said. “I immediately tried to call them back and was not able to get through.”
‘I Still Had No Answer’
But the one time she did reach the UIA line and spoke to a person, the representative on the other end told her that “someone will call you,” offering her no explanation on why her money was delayed for so long.
“I was shocked that I still had no answer,” she said. “The last time, I asked, ‘Will I get my money before Christmas?’ I was told, ‘we cannot answer that.’ There is just no sense of urgency. It’s so disheartening and depressing. Every month, I have hope that this will be the month. But it’s now the seventh month. I don’t understand why I still don’t have my approved money from last spring. Absolutely no one will answer this.”
She added that telling me “you’re on the list” does not get her bills paid. And while she is distraught about her financial situation she is “grateful” that she and her daughter have the $400 monthly child support to live off of.
“And that my mortgage company is working with me. If it wasn’t for this, we would have lost our home already. It can also be so much worse, so I am grateful for all that we do have.”
A Hopeful Path Forward
Kieffer added with this upcoming election, she hopes that presidential nominee Joe Biden wins.
“I feel like he is a president for the people and he will actually help people like me,” she said. “I’m kind of a mess right now trying to get healthy.”
Health insurance is what Michigan residents might lose if President Donald Trump successfully eliminates the Affordable Care Act, which helps millions of families in their healthcare coverage.
Biden, if elected, wants to keep the Affordable Care Act that so many peoplehttps://theamericanonews.com/2020/08/07/joe-biden-healthcare-plan/ rely on. He was the vice president when the plan was developed by former President Barack Obama.
On Oct. 1, four and half months after the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act didn’t progress in the Senate, the US House of Representatives passed an amended version of the pandemic relief bill, according to a published article.
The updated bill is $1.2 trillion less expensive than its initial one. Also it includes stimulus payments (up to $1,200), the extension of $600-per-week boost to unemployment benefits, the continuation of employer-sponsored healthcare coverage, funding for coronavirus testing and tracing, and better protections for workers at risk of job exposure to COVID-19.
The ‘Gander changed Morgan Kieffer’s to protect her privacy.