More than 20 million American have filed unemployment claims as a result of coronavirus job loss. This month, Ohio alone received 850,000 jobless claims, and Tonya Reese and Andrew “Duff” Woodside, unemployment compensation specialists for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, are two of the frontline workers putting in long extra hours to make sure their fellow Ohioans can make ends meet.
Reese, who spent several pandemic weeks in the office to ensure that systems and technology continued to function, has now transitioned to working from home where she is processing the seemingly endless number of benefit applications.
“This has been a very emotional time,” she admits, “These are people’s paychecks we’re talking about here. Their livelihoods. Customers are in crisis. They are facing the unknown. They are frustrated, they are sad. But everything we’ve ever trained for has led us to this. We’re here to help. This is our mission at hand.”
Woodside normally investigates unemployment fraud, but now, too, has shifted his focus to processing benefit applications. He says the volume of applications can be overwhelming, but the key to making it through is to focus on one person at a time.
“When I get tired after working 11 hours, I feel like ‘Well, I got one more in me, let me get one more,’ and that helps me from getting overwhelmed. I can’t control 850,000 applicants; I can’t even really conceive of that number [of applicants]. But I can help this one person.”
Read more about Tonya and Andrew and their experiences as front line workers here.