Crashing servers, outmoded software and overloaded call centers are some of the obstacles standing between millions of unemployed workers and the financial lifeline the government has promised under the $2 trillion relief package approved late last month.
With every passing week the problem is exacerbated by new waves of jobless or laid-off workers whose paychecks have vanished since the coronavirus pandemic crippled the U.S. economy.
But the delays may be even longer for the self-employed, independent contractors and gig-economy workers who are not normally eligible for unemployment benefits, but are covered under two separate provisions in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act.
New figures released by the Department of Labor show 22 million Americans have filed unemployment claims since mid-March. The staggering surge reflects how jobs, created during a decade-long economic expansion, have been wiped out.
Meanwhile, state agencies say a large part of what is causing the technology problems leading to delays is the avalanche of newly eligible applicants that have overwhelmed existing systems. The crush of calls and online applications have proved to be too much for understaffed call centers and outdated benefit programs running on old software.
Among those caught in the fiscal melee is Ted, a self-employed state and local government consultant who became Internet-famous last week for creating a diagram of his Sisyphean journey to file a claim.