Millions Still Waiting For Unemployment Benefits To Arrive

15 hours ago
Originally published on May 23, 2020 9:17 am
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Thirty-eight million Americans have applied for unemployment benefits. That number is predicted to grow. State unemployment offices can't process claims fast enough. Millions have yet to receive any help. Valencia Rush is one of those people. She's an aspiring musician and songwriter who just moved back to St. Louis, her hometown, to start a new job as a technical support specialist. And then she was laid off.

VALENCIA RUSH: It was pretty devastating for me, just, you know, having taken that time to search for a job, and especially wanting to go to school. That was, like, a big hit towards my career goals.

SIMON: That was in early April. She applied for unemployment that same day. It has now been seven weeks. She hasn't heard a thing.

RUSH: Everything is pending. Nobody has contacted me or - I haven't received any, like, emails telling me what that means. So that's kind of scary (laughter), you know, especially with the job market being the way it is right now. It's just a lot to deal with at one time.

SIMON: May I ask how you're getting by?

RUSH: I luckily have a huge support system in my family. I have a lot of siblings (laughter), and I have my mom and dad. So I do have that support system. And I also, you know, of course, kept my spending at bay, even before then. But at the same time, I've, like, been very cautious about everything that's gone towards bills and things like that. But, yeah, it's still super, super stressful.

SIMON: Well, help us understand how it's hard for you.

RUSH: Well, as a musician, that is one of my ways to also support myself. And then also being in the tech field, it's hard in general to find a job just in my experience, you know? And especially me wanting to finish school, it's just like, ah, it was right there. Now I'm not sure if I can go on with that semester because those funds are going to come out of pocket, of course. I was hoping - well, with unemployment, I could still pay for my classes. And I'm, you know, of course, actively looking for a job every day. So I don't know. It depends on if I'm able to pay for the semester coming up and then next semester, fall semester, 'cause that'll complete my associate's degree.

SIMON: And forgive me, how much money we talking about?

RUSH: Thirteen hundred - something like that. That's without books and everything like that.

SIMON: Well, have you written any songs?

RUSH: Oh, yes. That's one thing that's kept me, like, positive is that I still have my art. My creativity could've just left along with, you know, my job (laughter), but it stayed with me. So I have been able to write.

SIMON: May we hear something?

RUSH: Yes, of course. Is it OK if I do, like, a quick cover song?

SIMON: Of course, yeah. Don't worry.

RUSH: OK. (Singing) It's like yesterday, I didn't even know your name. Now today, you're always on my mind. I never could have predicted that I'd feel this way.

SIMON: Ms. Rush, you have a beautiful voice.

RUSH: Oh, thank you. Thank you so much.

SIMON: Valencia Rush, singer-songwriter in St. Louis.

(SOUNDBITE OF NIGHTMARES ON WAX'S "YOU WISH") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.