The global pandemic has left Massachusetts with the highest unemployment rate in the country, and people like Bruce Blake of Boston's Allston neighborhood say they're struggling to make ends meet.
"I'm just trying to pay my rent." said Blake. "I'm not trying to get rich. I'm not sitting on the couch eating bonbons. I just want to pay my rent."
Back in April, Blake was approved for pandemic unemployment assistance through the state. A few weeks later, he says the money dried-up.
"Everything was working fine," said Blake. "Then it was held up. It was delayed, then it was declined. I didn't understand why. Then I called and I called and I got a lot of different answers from a lot of different people."
NBC10 Boston Responds has received dozens of similar complaints from viewers who are unable to obtain unemployment benefits. Some tell us they can't navigate the computer system. Others say they're getting mixed messages from state employees.
Blake says it's like there are two different worlds.
"The pandemic people don't talk to the regular state people and vice versa," he said. "And if they do, they have partial or different information."
The Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development did not answer our specific questions about this matter. But the state regularly maintains it has hired thousands of new employees to handle the demand at the Department of Unemployment Assistance. And in early July, a warning was issued about people filing illegitimate unemployment claims, and that subsequent security measures would lead to delayed payments for rightful individuals.
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The state wouldn't say whether this is the reason Blake struggled to get his claim approved.
But when he couldn't get his problem resolved, he turned to NBC10 Boston Responds for help, and we reached out to the state on his behalf.
"I feel like I was lucky that I talked to you folks," said Blake. "I know that we are in a global pandemic, but I hope that people at the state are understanding this is an economic pandemic and there are a lot of people that are in danger of that, and they need help, and I'm one of them."
With NBC10 Boston's help, Blake eventually got his money -- a total of $8,000 in back benefits.
If you have a consumer problem you need help with, reach out to NBC10 Boston Responds at 1-888-521-NEWS or find us here.