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Veteran waiting six months for U.I. benefits

Published: Nov. 26, 2020 at 3:13 PM PST
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - Veteran Michael Duarte says he is several months behind on rent and has no money for food or bills.

He says he left his job at the VA Hospital in Reno because of conditions directly related to COVID-19.

“When did you first apply for unemployment insurance?” asked KOLO 8 News Now Anchor, Noah Bond.

“The weekend of May 24th,” Duarte.

”How many hours a week have you spent on the phone calling DETR representatives?” Bond.

“I’ve called them probably 600, 700 times,” Duarte.

“Your thoughts about that?” Bond.

“It’s insane,” Duarte.

“How many people have you talked with?” Bond.

“About five different people,” Duarte.

”When were you told you’ll be paid by DETR?” Bond.

“One time I was told I’ll be paid between January 1 and February 1,” Duarte.

His apartment manager Jeri Zimbelman says seven of her tenants are chronically struggling right now.

She says normally the number is two or three and they get caught up in a month.

Bond asked, ”As a landlord, correct me if I’m wrong, you have some major concerns with the timeline of Michael’s payment. Can you tell me about that?”

“These people are stuck in their homes unable to go anywhere or do anything. Some of them are getting very depressed and the only answer they get when they call the unemployment office is that they have been accepted, but we won’t be cutting checks until January 1 so you should receive it by Feb. 1,” Duarte.

”At this point how much money does DETR owe you?” Bond.

“I guess between $10,000 and $20,000,” Duarte.

“What does that money mean to you?” Bond.

“It means a place to live, pay my bills, it means everything,” Duarte.

”How many months behind on rent are you?” Bond.

“About five months,” Duarte.

Do you ever have enough money to pay your expenses?” Bond.

“Nope,” Duarte.

“What is your emotional and mental state like right now?” Bond.

“It’s hard. You get depressed because you can’t go anywhere. I couldn’t even go look for a job because I don’t have enough money for gas so I’m doing it all online. It’s frustrating. It’s really frustrating,” Duarte.

”What would you like to say to DETR?” Bond.

“I’m not the only one suffering. The world doesn’t revolve around me, but I’d sure like to hurry up and get paid because I’m going to lose everything,” Duarte.

“What would you like to say to Gov. Sisolak?” Bond.

“I’ve been really patient. My landlord has been really patient, but my bill collections aren’t that patient any longer so I need some help,” Duarte.

Bond will continue sharing your stories until everyone who applied for and qualifies for unemployment assistance because of the pandemic is paid.

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