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Kentucky woman pleads for help with unemployment benefits while battling COVID from hospital

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Posted at 4:43 PM, Jul 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-12 18:43:13-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. — A Lexington woman trying to obtain employment benefits for months is now fighting her case from her hospital bed.

Briana Strickland reached out to WLEX for help with Kentucky's unemployment system multiple times since January when she originally filed for unemployment.

Strickland says she didn't receive payments until March. Then in May, Strickland says the state notified her by a letter that she was overpaid.

"I had to wait for all the way until sometime mid-June," said Strickland. "I believe it was to get an in-person appointment. [When I get] there, they have us standing outside in the rain like little ducks... just a mess, just rude. The lady [that I spoke with] tells me the man wasn't supposed to pay me out in the first place."

They informed her that she had a fraud case. However, she says she was cleared the next day, and payments resumed.

She was informed a month later that she needed to appear to appeal her case on July 6.

The same day she was admitted to the hospital for COVID-19.

"I was trying to hold out as long as I could, but my breathing just took the time for the worse," said Strickland.

Nevertheless, her son Brendan Peterson called on her behalf to ask for an extension.

"I made the call soon as we got to the hospital because I knew she had to take care of it, and I knew she was getting inducted into the hospital," said Peterson. "I told her what was going on. I explained to her like, yeah, my Mom's in the hospital. She just got rushed to the hospital. She has COVID. She can't really talk right now. And I was like, is there anything that we can do to reschedule without her losing her benefits, and the lady was like, yeah. She's like; we'll give your Mom a call in like 30 days."

They got a letter in the mail the next day, dated July 7. It said because Strickland did not appear to defend her claim, she'd remain ineligible for benefits for the one-week period in May and "thereafter until conditions have substantially changed on the ground the claimant had not met the requirements set forth by Kentucky Administrative Regulations for claiming benefits."

"When my family told me about the letter, it stressed me out even more," said Strickland. "It's like, okay, you know, I fought for this. I'm still fighting to find employment, but I have a higher educational background, so it's not that easy to just get out and find something. I have kids, and I'm trying to make it. And it's just like ... I almost died."

We reached out to the unemployment office and the Governor's office for a comment and advice on what the family should do on Monday. This is what they said in a statement:

"The Kentucky Office of Unemployment Insurance does not publicly discuss the details of specific UI claims. The agency continues to work each and every day to ensure eligible claimants receive the benefits to which they are eligible, and we will not stop until that goal is accomplished. Claimants who are not eligible for UI benefits have the right to appeal. If they are unsuccessful at overturning the decision on appeal, or fail to appear at the hearing, they will be notified by mail that they have the right to appeal the appellate decision to the Unemployment Insurance Commission."

The Governor's office directed us to the Labor office.

As for Strickland's COVID-19 battle, she's still on oxygen but feels her body getting stronger.

"You got people in the hospital on the news. It's ridiculous. At what point does this stop?" said Strickland. "This is the last thing I should have to worry about in the hospital right now is talk to you about how they done cut my unemployment."

Christiana Ford at WLEX first reported this story.