>Unemployment benefits application – Minnesota is hard!

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After the 4th of July, the tiny little non-profit that I work for implemented a week-long shut down. Read: four days of unpaid time off. While we were all looking forward to the time off, the cut in pay is easy for no one. We had a meeting with our HR person about how to file for unemployment in Minnesota, when to do it, where to go, etc. Being a fairly tech-savvy woman I didn’t think too much about at the time. Minnesota is known for having pretty generous social programs and the state is generally advanced when it comes to using technology. Minneapolis has city-wide WIFI and has for a few years now. I wasn’t worried. I should have been.

First, let’s start out by saying that in general, the unemployment benefits application is complex. You’re required to input information that the state already has from your past tax return forms. You’re required to create an account, detailing all of your information during the week in which you’re unemployed (or after, but you won’t get paid as quickly then). After you create the account you have to wait one week before you can submit an application for benefits. This is all well and fine with me. I signed on at 5:30 on a Friday to submit my form. I’d had a busy week despite not working. As I went through the form, I realized that I was required to fill out information for all employment held in the past 18 months, even though I was only trying to claim benefits from my current job for one week. If you answer any one question the wrong way, your benefits are denied. I was laid off in January from my old job although I had a severance through April. I held a part-time retail job from December 2008 until May 2009. And I worked free-lance for a company in January and February of this year. The unemployment application requires you to fill out information for each employer. Salary, reason for leaving, last date worked, etc. I had no idea for two of the four jobs listed. I was already annoyed with the complexity because, again, the state already has all of this information. Grumbling, I started inputting my information, simply accepting the fact that I would just have to suck it up and do it.

At 6:00 the website shut down. In the middle of my form, I clicked the ‘next’ button and received a message saying that operating hours for the Minnesota department of unemployment are 6am to 6pm, Monday through Friday. I understand if they’re not available to take questions but to actually shut down the entire site after 6 every night? That’s crazy! The library doesn’t shut down the website when it turns off the ‘open’ sign. It made me wonder if maybe there were little gerbils running on wheels to keep the servers going at the unemployment office and they can only run for so long? I tried not to be outraged. “I’ll just sign on Monday morning,” I told myself.

And so I did. And nothing was saved. I had to start all over. Luckily I remembered my user name and password and was able to sign in without too much trouble. I started all over from the beginning. When I reached the part about creating a user name and password, I got confused. Didn’t I already have a user name and password? I just signed in with one! This was where I made my most fatal mistake. I thought I’d better double check to make sure that I hadn’t clicked on the wrong link and was in the right place. I’ll just click the form’s ‘back’ button, right? NOOOOOOOOO! Don’t do it! Never click it! I was signed out and brought back to the home page. Since then, two weeks later, I cannot sign back in. It knows I have an account but says the password or SSN is incorrect. When I try to ‘reset’ my password, the page just reloads with the same error message. Normally I would assume I had made some dire mistake and if only I hadn’t been so foolish as to click the back button, I’d be okay now. Luckily for me, a coworker had the exact same problem. She was kicked out when she hit the ‘next’ button during the middle of the day. It’s not just me! She ended up calling the office, filling everything out over the phone, and then calling to do it all over again when she realized the person on the phone had added an extra “zero” to her old salary and she wasn’t going to be eligible for benefits. Awesome.

In the long run I decided, I’m not going to file for unemployment. Or other furlough this year is over Christmas and I’ll be taking paid vacation those days. I was laid off in January and started working here the second week of February. My old job had given me an eight-week severance so for seven weeks this year, I made two salaries and I make more now than I used to. I owed federal taxes last year as it was, so I’m anticipating owing again this year. In the end, it doesn’t make much sense to go through the scaring ordeal that is the Minnesota unemployment benefits application for approximately $200 that I’ll have to give right back in April.

What do you think? Should I have sucked it up and called the office or let it die? Do other states have such insane procedures?

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