Out of work since November 2008, James Lundgren, 50, of Forest Lake started the New Year with his usual ritual: logging in to the Minnesota Unemployment Insurance web site to qualify for his weekly $282 payment.
Yet the typical link he clicked to release his payment wasn’t there. There was no way to get the money. He called the agency’s hotline for help, and was told the delay had something to do with a system error and a heavy end-of-year workload for the agency. His eligibility hadn’t changed.
A week went by, then another, and another. Lundgren canceled a job interview in St. Paul because he couldn’t afford to replace a blown tire on his truck. He worried that the phone would be shut off.
He called the agency constantly. He was so persistent that at one point someone on the other end of the line called him an “avenging angel,” Lundgren said.
Kirsten Morell, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Employment and Economic Development, said she couldn’t discuss the details of Lundgren’s situation. But the day after Whistleblower contacted Morell last week, Lundgren’s problem was fixed.
“Presumably, it was an individual situation. It was not a system-wide situation,” Morell said. “As with anyone who’s having a hard time getting what they earned, I’m glad they were able to work it out.”
On Thursday, Lundgren got four weeks’ unemployment pay. He’s hoping to get off unemployment soon, if he lands a job as an accounting clerk. He’s still steamed about the response he got when he inquired about the whereabouts of his money, and how he had to contact Whistleblower to restart his payments.
“It just seems like no one cares,” Lundgren said. “The state doesn’t really have anything built in for their mistakes.”
Do you agree? With the Great Recession and Minnesota's 7.3 percent unemployment rate, the unemployment insurance system clearly faces huge demands at a time of shrinking government resources. What’s been your experience with Minnesota Unemployment Insurance?