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CNY Jobless with Problems Applying for, Receiving Unemployment Checks Can Get Free Local Legal Help

Chris Bolt/WAER News

Unemployment Insurance has been expanded and extended, benefitting many Central New Yorkers who find themselves out of work.  But not everyone is having an easy time getting the financial support.  One local legal group is on a mission to help.

A lot of people are finding out right about now whether they qualify for unemployment benefits.  And Hiscock Legal Aid Society Deputy Director Gregory Dewan says those rulings can be a turning point.

“What we anticipate is that the Department of Labor will start issuing (more)decisions on whether somebody qualifies for unemployment or not.  And that’s when we can really do our best work, when you get that decision.  If you’re denied, contact us. We can walk somebody through how to apply for a hearing and represent them at that hearing.  Or if they got granted benefits and their employer is challenging their right to benefits, we can represent a claimant in those actions as well.”

At this time, of massive economic slowdown – but also some fear-factor, Dewan says different reasons can lead to denial of benefits.

“Somebody was terminated for misconduct; they violated a company policy they knew would or could have led to their termination.  That’s the most common reason for denial we’ve historically seen.  Another common reason is voluntarily quitting a job without good cause.  In order to qualify for unemployment, you have to have good cause for leaving that job.  I do anticipate seeing a lot more of those types of cases, because people are leaving their job because they’re worried about their health and safety, or the health and safety f someone they live with.”

Unemployment benefits and eligibility have been expanded at both the state and federal level.  That includes people laid off by an employer, but also the self-employed and so-called gig-economy workers.  Dewan notes many people have never applied for these benefits before … and can use help navigating, even if they don’t have to fight after being turned down.

“We don’t have any control over the Department of Labor obviously, and can’t make them call you back quicker or process your application any faster.  What we can do is give you some advice and let you know you’re on the right track, that what you’re doing is appropriate, and let you know what comes next after you do get through.  So that’s really our role in this, to demystify the process, let people know … they’re doing things properly.”

(Contact and Eligibility Info HERE)

Hiscock is meeting people over the phone and video conferencing, as well as sharing documents that can be scanned or even sent as a picture by smart phone.  But Dewan says they miss the human touch of helping.  He just wants people to know the assistance – which as all free to clients – is out there if needed.

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.