The Ins And Outs Of Collecting Unemployment

The process of navigating the rules and regulations of the unemployment office while continuing to look for work can be daunting. Andrew Stettner of the National Employment Law Project and Josh McKenna of the Idaho Department of Labor talk about misconception the process of getting the benefits.

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NEAL CONAN, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan, in Washington.

The Labor Department announced today that the number of people seeking unemployment benefits last week jumped to the highest level since late October. And today, we focus on two words in that familiar announcement: seeking benefits.

If you've never been to the unemployment office, it's difficult to understand the many rules and regulations, the paperwork and the overworked staffers once you finally reach an employment consultant. If you are out of work, what don't we understand with dealing with the unemployment office? Our phone number is 800-989-8255. Email us: talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Later in the program, why the military hemorrhages many of its best officers. But first, inside unemployment. And we begin with Andrew Stettner, deputy director of the National Employment Law Project, a group that works to enforce worker rights and help unemployed workers. And he's with us from our bureau in New York.

Nice to have you with us again.

Mr. ANDREW STETTNER (Deputy Director, National Employment Law Project): Good afternoon.

CONAN: And last month, President Obama signed a deal that, in addition to extending the Bush-era tax cuts, extended unemployment benefits for 13 months. Now, to a lot of people, that sounded like the 99ers, those who've been on unemployment for two years would be eligible to receive more unemployment insurance.

Mr. STETTNER: Yeah, that's correct. I think many people did think that. What that legislation did was it made sure everyone had at least the access to that same package that could go as long as 99 weeks. Many people who got laid off, you know, in the second half of the recession hadn't even received that and were going get cut off immediately in January. So what that bill did is that each individual will be able to receive that full package of benefits.

CONAN: So as much as 99 weeks, but for nobody beyond that.

Mr. STETTNER: Yeah, that's correct. And in many states, it's less than 99 weeks. And for some individuals with a spotty work history before they were laid off, it could be much, much less.

CONAN: And all of this is in a very confusing set of systems called tiers. If you're out of work through no fault of your own, you're eligible for unemployment insurance, but maybe just for tier one or tier two, and maybe not all the way to tier four.

Mr. STETTNER: So basically, the way you think about it is you get a certain amount of weeks added to your account. And if after each set of weeks, they're either 20 or 13 weeks at a time, if you're still out of work at the end of that tier and the program is still operating, you'll get the next tier. And that's what was crucially continued through December 31st, 2011. Workers will not have to worry. If they need to move from one tier to another in 2011, they're going to be able to do that. So it gives many people, three or four million people, the time they need to seek work.

CONAN: All right. We're talking with Andrew Stettner about unemployment insurance and what it's like to collect it. We'd like to hear your stories, as well. If you're unemployed, tell us about your difficulties or wonderful time dealing with the unemployment office. 800-989-8255. Email us: talk@npr.org.

Lisa's on the line from St. George in Utah.

LISA (Caller): Hi. I recently lost my job - well, last November. And when you file your weekly claim, you have to say whether or not you've had any work hours or anything like that and if - one thing I didn't understand before having been unemployed is that if you have a little bit of work, that you report that and then that deducts out of what your unemployment check is going to be for that week. And I have to say that our unemployment office down here has been extremely friendly when I've gone in, but they are so busy that you often wait - yesterday, in fact, I waited 50 minutes just to talk to a worker about it.

CONAN: Fifty, five-O, minutes?

LISA (Caller): Pardon?

CONAN: Fifty, five O, minutes?

LISA (Caller): Fifty, yeah.

CONAN: Oh, wow.

LISA (Caller): Fifty, as in almost an hour. And it's cut across all social and economic backgrounds and types of individuals that I've seen in there. I sat by a man last week where he had been at the same job for 30 years, and he was filing his first ever unemployment. I, as well, am filing my first ever unemployment, and I've been a worker since 1987.

CONAN: So quite - Yeah.

LISA (Caller): So I've never been unemployed. And you see - from young mothers - I saw a young mother in there the other day waiting on the phone with two young children, sitting underneath the desk that she was at because there was no place for her to take her children while she was waiting to talk to an eligibility worker on the phone. It just is - it's stunning when you go in there and you see all of the talent, all those individuals that are looking for work and of all different kinds, and there just isn't any.

CONAN: Well, Lisa, we wish you the best of luck as you look for work.

LISA (Caller): Thank you. I appreciate it.

CONAN: Okay. Andrew Stettner, the problem that she had with - she did some temp work and then found that that amount of money was deducted. It's almost like a penalty for working.

Mr. STETTNER: It is very important for people to claim, to listen carefully to those questions and do report any work that you have. It is deducted from your claim, but all states give you a little bit of incentive. They won't deduct every dollar out of your claim. They'll let you keep the first 75 or $100, $150 of what you make, and then after that, it gets deducted. And that actually can help you at the end of your unemployment claim.

You know, you get a certain amount in your unemployment claim based on how much you were earning. And if you get a partial week, you basically will stretch that out a little bit longer. So it's positive for you both in terms of holding on - but you actually could get more. If you keep the first $100 and you get a $310 check, well, you have $100 from your job and 310 from unemployment. Well, that's better than just having 310 from unemployment.

CONAN: I understand. Josh McKenna is acting Unemployment Insurance Benefits Bureau chief for the Idaho Department of Labor, and joins us now from a studio at Boise State Public Radio.

Nice to have you with us today.

Mr. JOSH MCKENNA (Unemployment Insurance Benefits Bureau Chief, Idaho Department of Labor): Thank you. It's good to be here.

CONAN: And was that question that we just had from Utah, is that a familiar one for you?

Mr. MCKENNA: Oh, absolutely. Individuals can work and receive their unemployment, providing how much they work, and it just depends on each state's individual formula.

CONAN: And each state's individual formula. What's the formula for Idaho at this moment?

Mr. MCKENNA: In Idaho, what we would do is we would look at - the person can earn up to half of what they're already eligible for in unemployment. So, for example, if they are eligible for $300 a week, they could earn up to $150 and still receive their full $300 unemployment insurance payment. For every dollar they earn over that $150, we would take a dollar off the $300. At the point they earn $450 in wages, they wouldn't receive any unemployment check that week.

CONAN: But if there was just a one-week job, they would be back on unemployment the following week?

Mr. MCKENNA: Absolutely. They can miss one week of claiming unemployment or even claim that week that they were working and still remain on unemployment.

CONAN: I see. Now, you oversee the unemployment counselors that deal with the claims and extensions for the unemployed. These are - it's got to be a taxing job.

Mr. MCKENNA: Oh, absolutely. We're as busy as we've ever been, and unfortunately, it's kind of remained that way for the last year and a half or so.

CONAN: Lisa reported waiting 50 minutes in the offices. Is that unusual in Idaho?

Mr. MCKENNA: Unfortunately, that's probably not unusual. We have limited staff, and we certainly try to help all of our customers the best we can. But just the mere volume is overwhelming at some times.

CONAN: And do people line up in the office as they did in the old days?

Mr. MCKENNA: It depends. The - some offices have, like, a numbering system where a visitor takes a number and just waits for the next person available. Other local offices have a sufficient staff to help the folks that are coming in.

CONAN: Let's see if we can get another caller on the line. Let's go to Larry, and Larry's with us from Casper in Wyoming.

LARRY (Caller): Yeah, Wyoming's kind of weird. We took a page from Dick Cheney's playbook, and the unemployment office here is in an undisclosed location. You can only contact it by phone.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Really?

LARRY: Yeah. They've had problems, I guess, with people in the past. So they don't have an office you can walk into. And they have the, what is it, six-tier, seven-tier, something like that, nationwide. But Wyoming only has three tiers because the unemployment rate is lower.

CONAN: Because of the oil and gas industry, I think. Wyoming is doing pretty well.

LARRY: Yeah, unless you're older. I'm 52, and I've been trying to find work for about a year and a half now and still can't find anything. They want either highly skilled, skills that I don't have, or start back over at an entry level, which is basically minimum wage.

CONAN: And Larry, is Wyoming one of those states that requires you to show proof that you've been out looking for work in order to collect unemployment?

LARRY: Yes, it is.

CONAN: And how do you do that?

LARRY: You keep track of a list of at least (unintelligible) people you've contacted every week, and when they go to ask for that, you have to send it in. So you have to have a record going back to day one.

CONAN: Send it in, what, by email or something?

LARRY: By mail.

CONAN: Yeah. Andrew Stettner, is that an unusual thing, to be a virtual office?

Mr. STETTNER: Well, the first thing I want to say to Larry, one of the really crazy things about this extension - in fact there are nine states, and Wyoming is among them, that could have one additional tier, either 13 or 20 weeks.

But that particular tier requires the state to pass a legislative change, and those nine states, including Wyoming, have missed the boat on that, and so people like Larry, who could really use that 13 weeks, haven't gotten it.

And we do hope that there will be legislation in Wyoming and other states to get that last tier. It's called EB. And for example, in Idaho they have that law. It's the final tier. And - but it's not paid out in Wyoming.

And in fact, but in fact the experience of the undisclosed location is, in fact, the norm. The vast majority of states, I would say more than 40 of the states, have really moved almost all of the claims-taking to a call center or Internet environment, and so the wait time can be also very long, but often it's waiting on hold with hold music.

And then a lot of the reporting in that you're doing is very similar to what the caller said. You send in your work-search history. In many states you could be called in to the, you know, the existing the remaining offices are just job-search offices. You could be called in to that office to show the proof. But a lot of it now is over the Internet and phone, and that can be pretty alienating for people.

Often people are just looking for somebody to talk to, to figure out where to go, but all they really get to interface with a lot of times is just a touch-button system.

CONAN: Josh McKenna, what's the situation in Idaho?

Mr. McKENNA: We have something similar, it sounds like, to Wyoming. We do ask for work search in some weeks, and individuals can send that to us via mail(ph).

CONAN: Okay, Larry, thanks very much, good luck with your job search.

LARRY: Thank you.

CONAN: We're talking about collecting unemployment. If you have a story about difficulties or, well, wonderful news about your experiences collecting unemployment insurance, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. More than 14 million people are currently unemployment, looking for work. That's according to the Labor Department. Many of them are also navigating the ins and outs of unemployment benefits.

We're getting the inside story on unemployment today, a process many people don't understand. If you're out of work, what don't we understand about dealing with the unemployment office? 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

And starting this month, NPR's Tamara Keith will begin a series of reports. She's following six people who are currently out of work as they search for, and hopefully find, jobs over the course of the next year. You can listen for those reports on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

Our guests for this program: Andrew Stettner, deputy director of the National Employment Law Project; and Josh McKenna, acting chief of unemployment insurance benefits for the Idaho Department of Labor.

And let's see if we can get another caller on the line. Go to Dave - excuse me, Steve, Steve with us from Detroit.

STEVE (Caller): Hey, Neal, how are you, man? This is my first time calling in.

CONAN: Well, thanks very much.

STEVE: I just wanted to relate two experiences I've had with unemployment in Michigan here. One of your earlier callers remarked that it took about 50 minutes to see, you know, a worker.

I have routinely spent up to an hour and a half simply waiting on hold to...

CONAN: Interesting, we got a tweet from Boris(ph). Says: 50 minutes? It took me two days to get through to Illinois' IDES on the phone regarding a question.

STEVE: Right.

CONAN: So...

STEVE: Yeah, and so and - you will routinely get, like, a busy signal for a block of 15 to 20 minutes, a busy signal every time you call. And if this is something you need to do within that hour, you're scheduled an hour to call in and verify your work, search, whatnot.

I mean, not everybody's going to have access to a cell phone, and I've had to make that call from a pay phone before.

CONAN: And that just means putting the change in over and over and over and over again.

STEVE: Yeah, and then I have been disconnected as well. But my other point I wanted to bring up, something I wasn't aware of before I got onto unemployment, was that you can't take classes and collect unemployment concurrently.

And that was just something that I can't wrap my brain around because if...

CONAN: Andrew Stettner, is that right?

Mr. STETTNER: Well, let me make a couple points. One, you know, we know what it's like to try to call into MARVIN, that's what it's called in Michigan. And really, we've just had a problem with the technology not being upgraded, you know, when times are good.

I mean, workers in that agency have been on mandatory overtime for, I believe, two and a half years, and you know, it's been very hard for them.

It's a good question the caller asks. You do have the ability to get what's called approved training, and in Michigan, you know, like every state, there is a provision for that. So if you have the unemployment agency approve your course - which basically means, you know, they're going to look at it and see that it's something that really is going to make you more employable and also, hopefully, you know, move up and not have to get back on unemployment again.

So - but you do have to get that course approved. If you dont get it approved, then you don't meet the basic rule, which is that you have to be looking for work. The rule for unemployment is be looking for work and be available for full-time work, and obviously if you're in school, you're not. So they allow for an exception for that.

And every state has some provision, but it certainly is hard to find - that is the one place you - most states go to your one-stop career center to find the information.

And we've tried to put a lot of the information, because it's so hard to get through, we've put together a website, unemployedworkers.org, that just has a bunch of information on it, frequently asked questions, because it has been really frustrating for people like your caller, you know, to try to get through to talk to a real person. Sometimes it's impossible.

CONAN: And Josh McKenna, there in Idaho, I understand you don't make these rules, you're just administrating them, but I'm sure you've dealt with people like Steve, who say: Wait a minute, this is completely counterintuitive. I should be going to school and learning new skills so I can get a better job.

Mr. McKENNA: Absolutely. In our state, we do have certain provisions where we allow people to attend school instead of searching for work. It just depends upon their individual circumstances. The tough thing is that if they continue to draw unemployment and that runs out, the unfortunate thing is sometimes they do have to drop out of school, so...

CONAN: Here's an email from Charles(ph) in San Mateo, California: My experience with getting unemployment benefits in California was not bad. The state has a website with a link to a YouTube video that shows how to complete the process of applying online.

I followed the directions, and the money started flowing within three weeks. The problem, of course, is that the amount is tiny. I qualified for $450 a week in benefits, but my rent is $900 a month, and my health insurance is $500 a month. That does not leave much for food and fuel, which here in California is over $3 a gallon. And I think a lot of people can sympathize with that.

Let's go next to Aaron(ph), Aaron's with us from Minneapolis.

AARON (Caller): Hi. I recently got put on unemployment in October, and I got a letter from the workforce center, and I had no idea what the workforce center was. I went there for orientation, and they talked about all the programs that Minnesota offers for unemployment.

And the first class you have to take is called Ready U, you go to that class, and they start talking about: How are you getting a job? Are you looking online? Are you networking? How are you job-searching? Let's take a look at your resume. They go over all of that. And I think so many people forget that there's places like that, versus just doing it online.

CONAN: I see. Andrew Stettner, that's good advice, isn't it?

AARON: Yeah, and I...

CONAN: I'm sorry, let's hear from Andrew. Just a second, Aaron.

Mr. STETTNER: Oh, yeah, and I think it's something that everybody should take advantage of, and we really would like to see there be a more aggressive approach by the states, with support from the federal government, of course, to really hopefully have everybody have that opportunity to go in, to talk to a counselor, to make a plan.

Boy, it's hard to be out of work today. It's hard to know where to search or what's going to come next. So getting some help from someone who's talked to a lot of people is just a really wise thing to do, and there are a lot of free services out there, and people should take advantage of them.

CONAN: And Aaron, you were going to say something else?

AARON: I don't I personally, I didn't realize that less than 10 percent of people are being hired from looking online. And I think everybody thinks it's an Internet world, and you have to apply online, but that is not how - I mean, I didn't realize, I'm putting all these applications online, but only five percent of the workforce is getting hired by only doing online applications.

CONAN: So everybody else is getting hired through personal applications and, well, through people they know.

AARON: Networking. It's networking. It's really putting yourself out there, getting to know somebody who knows somebody else. And, you know, you have to sell yourself. It's no longer - you know, you can't just be, like, this little silent ninja and come out of nowhere and be this great worker. You have to sell yourself.

CONAN: Well, Aaron, good luck.

AARON: Thank you.

CONAN: Here's an email from Lyle(ph) in Cincinnati: I've been unemployed three times over the last five years for three to six months. Living and working here in Southern Ohio, the unemployment system here seems to function okay. The only complaint I have is they don't inform the newly unemployed about some of the services available locally until they have struggled for a while on their own.

The first time I was laid off, since I registered over the phone and received my notices via email, I was not aware of the local job center, which has computers and other resources available for free for people who are looking for work.

I wasn't informed of those services until I'd been unemployed for four months. Josh McKenna, are there services like that in Idaho, and is it sometimes difficult for the newly unemployed to find out about them?

Mr. McKENNA: Absolutely. There's those services - we have job-search workshops, resume workshops, interviewing skills. We also do operate a program called the Re-employment Eligibility Assessment, where we have folks that come in that we select and help them identify types of work that they can seek, as well as identify any barriers or maybe guide them towards maybe locations they can look for work.

CONAN: But the - I think it's inevitable there's a learning curve on unemployment, just as there is on any system that you're dealing with. It is difficult, sometimes, for people who are new to the system to figure out all of the services that are available to them.

Mr. McKENNA: I think that's true. We're fortunate in our state to have 25 local offices, and not only do we offer unemployment, but we offer all those other services at that same location. So if they do file their claim in one of our local offices, hopefully at that point they become aware of some of those services we have.

CONAN: Let's go next to Jim, and Jim's with us from Sussex in New Jersey.

JIM (Caller): Yes. My quick comment is I deliver mail, and I see frequently where people have had unemployment, and then they move out of their house for one reason or the other, and I'm not sure what they do if they lose their home, if their check keeps coming. It keeps coming to the post office. They come to the door, they want a one-day hold. But I think it might be tough if you lose your house and you're unemployment. Do you have to have an address to get unemployment.

CONAN: Don't people leave a forwarding address, especially if they know a check is coming?

JIM: It's often returned back to the state.

CONAN: It's often - is that the situation in Idaho, Josh McKenna, if it's undeliverable, it comes back to the state?

Mr. McKENNA: In our state, we have two methods of payment of benefits. We either pay on a debit card with individual receipts - it's a Visa card, so it's treated just like any other Visa. So we're able to load someone's card if they don't have that address, as well as we do have direct deposit.

And so in our state we're fortunate not to have that problem because we don't mail out paper checks.

CONAN: Andrew Stettner, that could be a problem, though, for places, I guess, like New Jersey.

Mr. STETTNER: Right, you have to - if you're on unemployment, and you're moving, you have to be proactive and notify the agency of your change of address. That's really important with the extensions. Depending on where you move, your eligibility could change. So it's incumbent on the claimant to notify the agency, and if they don't, you're definitely at the risk of losing your check. So you got to take the initiative.

CONAN: Jim, thanks for the heads-up.

JIM: Thank you.

CONAN: Let's go next to - this is Liz - excuse me, Ahbed(ph). Ahbed with us from Des Moines.

AHBED (Caller): Yes. I have worked for three and a half years on a contract basis and paid on a 1099. And then my contract ended in November. Am I eligible for unemployment?

CONAN: 1099. So you were self-employed there, Ahbed?

AHBED: Yeah(ph).

CONAN: Yeah. Andrew Stettner, is he eligible?

Mr. STETTNER: If someone's a genuine independent contractor, they're not eligible for unemployment benefits. You know, you don't - in that situation, you know, if you're truly on business on your own, it's hard to prove are you unemployed involuntarily or not. And for that reason, they've really been left out of the system, which is definitely a hole in it.

I would note, and I'm not commenting about the caller's situation, but there are many people who are, in fact, paying to(ph) the 1099 but they're really regular workers. For example, in Massachusetts there were several hundred janitors who were told that they were on business for themselves, but they didn't have their own equipment or anything. You know, they were just told that. So when they lost their job, they actually did get unemployment benefits. So if you think that you should've been paid like a regular employee, you can get your benefits.

CONAN: Ahbed, good luck. We wish you the best. And there's another point, I guess, Josh McKenna, we should've emphasized from the beginning. That is, you have to be out of work through no fault of your own. If you get fired or if you quit, you're not eligible.

Mr. McKENNA: That's not exactly true. It kind of depends on the reason that the person became unemployed. The easiest ones are the ones where somebody's lay off (unintelligible) lack of workers involved in a business closure. But somebody can still receive benefits if they were discharged not for misconduct, or that they quit with good cause connected with the work. So what we would do in a situation like that is that we just have to investigate it a little bit deeper to see if either of those qualifications apply.

CONAN: But that...

Mr. McKENNA: I think there's that misconception out there that...

CONAN: Okay.

Mr. McKENNA: ...you have to be unemployed due to like a lay-off or a business closure.

CONAN: And so there are exceptions. Presumably those investigations, though, take some time.

Mr. McKENNA: Absolutely. They do take a little bit of time. Right now we take approximately three to four weeks to resolve those, but we do pay the person for the time they waited if we do end up finding them eligible.

CONAN: Josh McKenna, acting unemployment and insurance benefits chief for the Idaho Department of Labor, with us from Boise Public Radio. And Andrew Stettner is also with us. He's deputy director of the National - excuse me, National Employment Law Project, a group that promotes policies and programs to create jobs and enforce worker rights and help unemployed workers. He's with us from our bureau in New York.

You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And now let's go Liz. And Liz with us from St. Louis.

LIZ (Caller): Hi. I'm a first-time caller. I have been on unemployment in the state of Missouri for about 18 months. And the couple times that I have had to call in to either change tiers(ph) or give initial information, it literally takes days to get through. Their offices or their phone line there is no office - is open something like 8:00 until 5:00. And you have to start dialing a half an hour before they're open and dial, dial, dial to even have a chance to speak with someone. That can - it's kind of frustrating.

But my real comment was, I'm required to report in every four weeks at the career center, and I was shocked. They don't require ID, any proof of, you know, who you are. You do have to know your Social Security number and a PIN number. But I could give that information to absolutely anyone and they could report in for me. I was just very, very surprised at how lax some of the system appears to be.

CONAN: So you could've been sending your cousin Hilary down to do that...

LIZ: Exactly.

CONAN: ...while you are at the racetrack or something.

LIZ: Exactly. And I - I was amazed. I brought my Social Security card the first time, my driver's license. They did not ask for a thing. I was shocked.

CONAN: All right. Liz, thanks very much for the call.

LIZ: Thank you.

CONAN: Let's see if we can go next to - this is Sarah, Sarah with us from Wichita.

SARAH (Caller): Hi, Neal.

CONAN: Hi, Sarah.

SARAH: My husband was - has been laid off from Cessna three times now. And the second time was in 2010 - no, '09, excuse me. And at that time we filed for unemployment and received it without a problem. He was rehired by Cessna last August and then laid off again in December. And when we received our determination from the unemployment office, they said that he didn't make enough money the last time around to qualify for unemployment.

CONAN: Or enough cumulative money.

SARAH: Right. Yes. He hadn't made enough money in those four months at Cessna to qualify. And if we had not gone back to Cessna when they offered the position, we would've still got unemployment, or if they'd not offered in the first place. You're not allowed to turn down work when you're on unemployment.

CONAN: Right.

SARAH: But - so that really messed us up. And we tried to call, and my husband literally spent two weeks calling every day, almost 100 times a day. And our automated system is one of those situations where we don't have an office to go into. There are no online options. And our automated system is such that if there are people on hold, they won't let you hold. They just end the call after you've spent your two minutes putting in all your information.

CONAN: Yeah.

SARAH: And then, when he did finally get through after two weeks (unintelligible) he was on hold for three hours. And then, in the middle of the call, it was disconnected. And he was unable to get back through to talk to someone who was in the process of informing him that we were actually still eligible for unemployment under his last - because he still had another tier...

CONAN: Because he had not used it up from the previous time.

SARAH: He hasn't used it up from the previous time. But then we had to spend, you know, another three days trying to get through to finish the process so that we could apply. So it was an incredibly, incredibly frustrating experience. And you know, we could have just taken what they sent us at face value and not even known if we hadn't spent all that time calling in, not even known that we could.

I mean, they didn't send us a letter. They didn't send us anything to let us know that we could have applied under the old unemployment. So it was just a terrible, terrible experience for us all around and very - I mean, I'm pregnant with our first child and we found out I was pregnant a month before he got laid off. And, you know, we were just completely stressed out this whole time. Only to find out, after all that, that we do still have a few weeks left on unemployment that we can stretch and get by.

And like Kansas is one of those states where we don't have all the tiers. We only have three tiers here because the unemployment rate is only six percent for Kansas. But it's 13 percent in Wichita, where the all the aircraft companies are. So it's - you know, our job market is - does not reflect our level of tiers.

CONAN: Sarah, we're going to have to, first of all, leave you in terrible frustration. And we're sorry for your situation. We certainly hope your pregnancy goes well.

SARAH: Thank you.

CONAN: And you will, however, get the last word, and frustration may be an appropriate one for this.

Josh McKenna, thank you very much for your time today. We appreciate your taking questions for us.

Mr. McKENNA: Thank you.

CONAN: John McKenna, acting unemployment insurance benefits chief for Idaho Department of Labor. And Andrew Stettner, again, thank you for being with us.

Mr. STETTNER: You're welcome.

CONAN: Andrew Stettner of the National Employment Law Project, with us from our bureau in New York.

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