“We are in dire straits. I’m going to be 51 next year and I’ve worked in non-profit accounting for the last 24 years of my life, mostly in Springfield. I worked with organizations such as Children’s Advocacy Center of Illinois, for example, so I’ve always been on the opposite end, helping people as much as I can.”

“I decided a couple of years ago I wanted to start up my own online retail business. I had been toying around with eBay since it first came out, and at the time, I had moved in with my current fiancé, Darrin, and he supported the idea. Unfortunately, shortly after he also faced several medical problems. He was a machinist and the six days a week, 10-hour days really did a number on him. So, he was always working and on his feet a lot and had to have several surgeries. In May 2019, Darrin needed foot surgery, and the doctor told him he would be out of work for at least six weeks.”

“During that time he received a letter in the mail from his job, and they terminated him.”

“That came out of nowhere because his employers told him to use the Family Leave Act to receive short-term disability while he recovered. He then went on to have two more foot surgeries, a back surgery, a melanoma removed and carpal tunnel surgery.”

“In January 2020, one of our neighbors posted that they were broke and hungry. We like to try to help people out as much as we can, so I got some food out of our pantry and Darrin walked it up to the house with our little dog, Archie. Archie was attacked by our neighbor’s two pit bulls and it cost us $3,000 to fix him.”

“And then the COVID-19 pandemic really slowed down my business. When they gave out stimulus checks, business would improve for a little bit but then it would slow back down, so I’ve struggled to get any income from that.”

“When I did my 2020 taxes, I wrote my business off as a loss because it was. I had more money in it than I was getting out and I got a $95 return. Something is better than nothing, but that’s not even enough for our water bill.”

“In the fall of 2020, Darrin was denied Social Security Disability without explanation. We were shocked. He has over 1,000 pages of medical records due to various issues, but we found out they decided he was not permanently disabled, and they just cut him off. No warning or anything.”

“April of 2021, after Darrin’s back surgery, he got a denial letter for long-term disability because his conditions weren’t considered ‘serious enough.’ So, it’s just been one thing after another.”

“I’ve thought about looking for work, but there aren’t really any well-paying job options in my small town. And, both my Darrin and Archie have needed around-the-clock care. I have to drive my fiancé to the doctor’s appointments, care for him because he can’t drive.”

“Sometimes I do feel like giving up but I just keep telling myself, ‘It’ll get better.’”

“Finally, I decided to apply for unemployment. I hesitated to apply before because I know there are people who might need it more, but we’re out of options.”

“Initially, the Illinois Department of Employment Security did call me back right away. I was really impressed with that. But then nothing. I called and called, but nothing changed. Eventually, I was put on the list.”

“Then, days went by without any response. I called them again and took a screenshot to prove I had not missed the call from them. While I was still on the call list, I couldn’t sign up for another spot. I was told to just keep waiting.”

“I don’t know how people with kids are doing it. I have a lot of respect for those people that are struggling and getting by. I feel bad for them if they’re waiting on unemployment, too, because they’re the ones that need help, too.”

“If we’re owed it, what’s the holdup?”

“After waiting a month for IDES to return my call, I reached out to my state representative. And within three days they handled my case.”

Melissa Taylor
Nonprofit accountant
Hillsboro, Illinois