Zenaba Amadou, a mother of five, had also applied for UI in the District when she lost her job in the hospitality services industry due to COVID-19. Ms. Amadou had tried to apply for UI when her job ended in March 2020, but she was not able to successfully submit her claim until a month later. When Legal Aid attorney Zenia Laws began working with Ms. Amadou, she learned that DOES had not paid Ms. Amadou UI for four weeks.
Due to the high volume of new UI applicants, DOES phone lines were jammed, and the agency’s website frequently crashed. This delay meant that Ms. Amadou would not receive about $2,400 in UI, including $600 per week of supplemental federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), for the weeks when she could not file her application. Without employment income, Ms. Amadou needed to rely on her weekly UI and the federal PUA to support her family.
“When I got connected with Legal Aid, I felt safe, and I trusted them with my life," Ms. Amadou said. "They helped me and got all my money to support my family.”
After Legal Aid’s continued weekly emails to DOES, the agency finally changed the start date of the UI claim and paid Ms. Amadou about $4,000 in UI that she was owed. However, changing the UI start date caused DOES’ computer system to think that Ms. Amadou owed DOES money, and her payments stopped altogether. Legal Aid attorney Marcia Hollingsworth, who had taken over Ms. Amadou’s case, had to contact DOES weekly to resolve this new issue. When DOES was not responsive to the weekly emails, Marcia filed an appeal on Ms. Amadou’s behalf to challenge the false overpayment. After a phone hearing, an administrative law judge reversed the overpayment and DOES paid Ms. Amadou over $8,000 in UI that had been withheld, in error, for three months.
Unfortunately, this was still not the end of Ms. Amadou’s challenges. Legal Aid had to contact DOES again when Ms. Amadou could no longer file her weekly UI claims online. This caused a delay in DOES paying her weekly. After working with Ms. Amadou for over a year, Legal Aid finally closed her case in September 2021.