Unsanitized: Poor People Endure Multidimensional Hazards to Access Crisis Relief

So the poor have it coming at them from all sides. Creditors and predators are after the one-time payments. They endure numerous indignities to get boosted unemployment and only a little over half of them have been successful so far.

News Story (Iowa, NATIONAL)

David Dayen
American Prospect, The
May 18, 2020
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Tags: COVID-19, Debt Collection, Unemployment, Unemployment Insurance

Organizations mentioned/involved: Iowa Legal Aid


Even if up and running, it can be difficult for workers to demonstrate their income so that can be translated into their unemployment share. Automated systems typically reject workers with not enough hours, and PUA had to be designed to go around that restriction. In Iowa, an automated letter generator has been sending denials to PUA-eligible unemployed workers for weeks, without a follow-up communication, and hoping workers just know to ignore it. The state workforce agency has blamed that on its antiquated system. “The whole idea of ‘I would love to help you but the computer doesn’t allow me to do it’ is unacceptable,” said Alex Kornya, litigation director with Iowa Legal Aid.

An even more unacceptable issue is garnishment of unemployment. Unlike the $1,200 payments, unemployment is supposed to be completely protected from creditors. But the protections are not automatic; people have to be aware of it and how to assert it in court. “Because of reduced court function, you have to set a hearing,” Kornya said. And the resulting legal fight can tie up the money for months, at a time when it’s desperately needed. Iowa, for example, freezes funds for 120 days in a dispute. Kornya said he’s heard of cases where the individual agrees to whatever the creditor wants just to unlock a portion of the payment, to which the creditor is 100 percent not entitled.