It's turning out that the eight-week delay in Congress passing an extension of unemployment isn't the only woe the unemployed had to face. While the money is finally starting to flow, in some states there have been additional state delays and confusion about getting retroactive payments.
Unemployment experts say the long delay in Congress acting didn't do anyone any favors.
There were reports this week of a computer crash in Indiana -- a crash a state official denied, confusion in California and other states and delays elsewhere complicating problems for the already distraught unemployed.
"The Congressional delay is producing additional backlogs in overburdened state programs that process unemployment benefits," said Maurice Emsellem, a spokesman for the National Employment Law Project.
Marc Katz, spokesman for the National Association of State Workforce Agencies, said the majority of states are quickly moving to issue retroactive checks within two to four weeks.
Neither group has done an updated state by state assessment.
President Obama signed the extension on July 22. At the time checks were about eight weeks behind. There had been hope in Congress that retroactive checks would quickly get rolling. With average weekly checks topping the $300 range, the retroactive payments could top $2,500.
Nearly two weeks later a quick survey of a few states and media reports showed some states had fully paid, others had started to pay and others were getting ready to pay.
"Our goal was always tomorrow [today, Wednesday, August 4]," said Ann Hatchitt, communications director of the Texas Workforce Commission. She said that as of yesterday the office expected to make that date for many recipients.
In Florida, retroactive benefits will start to flow Aug. 9, said Robby Cunningham, communications director for the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation.
Complicating the job is that the situation of each unemployed recipient can vary.
When benefits were cut off, most states, but not all, told recipients to keep filing claim forms. Not all recipients did though. After the extension, back claim forms needed to be filed.
Then there were the issues with forms or an interview needed in some states for extended benefits. Normally when an unemployed person exhausts state benefits, he goes on a series of federal extensions, some of which can require filing out an additional request for benefits form or an appearance at the state unemployment office. In states with high unemployment, the extensions can mean up to 99 weeks of benefits.
During the break those extra forms and interviews either weren't collected or they weren't done. Now, to pay retroactively, they are needed.
Indiana's problem last weekend was that more than 150,000 claims were filed on Sunday, double the normal number, slowing state computers to a crawl. The good news there is that the state did get caught up. Marc Lotter, communications director for the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, said that as of today (Aug. 4), all retroactive claims had been paid -- a total of 250,000 weeks of benefits to 80,000 state residents.
Even for states which can do the processing faster, explaining to the unemployed who needs to fill out what form and when has been complicated.
Colorado's Department of Labor & Employment's web page offers a number of separate explanations, one for someone
who exhausted their initial 26 weeks of state unemployment, but got none or part of the first 20 weeks of federal benefits; another for someone who got all of the initial federal benefit, but none of Tier 2 of extended benefits.
In California there have been reports of unemployed recipients getting contradictory letters from the Employment Development Department. with one saying they will be automatically enrolled for extensions and another asking them to fill out a claim form that isn't enclosed. State officials did not return calls for comment.
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