THE WAY WE WORK NOW

My Unemployment Benefits Are 5 Months Late — and Counting

I first filed in April, and I still don’t know if I’ll ever get paid

Izzie Ramirez
GEN
Published in
4 min readSep 29, 2020

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Photo illustration, source: damircudic/Getty Images

The Way We Work Now is a series chronicling how people’s lives and careers have fundamentally changed because of the pandemic.

Jessica Ellis, 38, lives in California and works in the film industry. She spoke with Izzie Ramirez about being stuck in California’s backlog of unemployment insurance claims, which is growing by nearly 10,000 each day.

My husband and I both work in the film industry. He owns a camera rental company, and I freelance as a coverage analyst and screenwriter. It became evident our jobs were going away for a long time when everything shut down in March. Our income dropped from significant to zero in no time, so we started living entirely on our savings.

We’ve been very lucky to be able to put money away for a couple of years. We made our first feature film two years ago, and we’re trying to put the film through distribution, so now we have to make choices: Do we buy the music rights we need or do we have rent for another two months? It’s depressing because your savings are not meant to be survival money. I know so many people are struggling right now. We’re lucky, but it’s also extremely upsetting to just watch that drain.

Applying for unemployment seemed like the logical thing to do. Initially, there was the pandemic assistance — the $600 a week. If we could get that, we thought, then we’ll still be able to pay our rent. We may be eating into our savings for living costs until work starts up again, but at least we won’t lose our house.

I filed for unemployment in early April and was told I would be getting a case number and a callback within about 10 days. After two weeks, I still hadn’t heard back. I knew the system was massively overloaded, so I tried to be patient. But I emailed them three weeks later, and they sent me an email back saying they…

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Izzie Ramirez
GEN
Writer for

Writing about climate, culture & comida wherever I go. Work in: GEN, Bitch Media, VICE, Jezebel, and then some. Medium’s resident Gen Z kid.