FLORENCE, Colo. (CBS4) – Raising three boys, David Turner knows life is a lot of work. For years he’s been able to make ends meet in Colorado and take care of his family working as a handyman where they live in Florence.
When the pandemic hit, he says, everything changed.
“I’m somebody who comes in and paints your house, or replaces your sink, puts in a new hot water tank. They don’t want me in their house right now, so literally money has stopped,” Turner said.
When he realized COVID-19 restrictions would be long-lasting, he made the decision to apply for help.
“I have never been on unemployment my entire life,” he said.
Self-employed, he applied for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, benefits that were implemented under the CARES Act. Initially he was able to receive some benefits, enough to catch up on bills. Then, in July, he got a message from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment that his payments were on hold. He has been trying to verify his identity to the state ever since.
“Now we want a picture of your driver’s license, a picture of myself holding my driver’s license and a picture of a bill at my address,” he said of the second request for verification.
Since completing what he thought was the last step in October he’s heard nothing, and payments still have yet to resume.
“Every day it’s ‘OK, how am I going to feed these kids?’ So I’ll go hungry for four days to make sure my kids can eat for the four days,” Turner said.
He’s now trying to find solutions on his own, and believes the state’s fraud protection system may be flagging and stopping legitimate claims that then take months to resolve and leave families in need with no one to turn to.
“Why can’t I show up at one of those places with my identification, and they can log into a computer and verify he is who he says he is?” he asked.
If the issue doesn’t get worked out soon, and with no work to be found in his small town, he says he’s running out of options.
“Pretty much the state just turned their back on us, you know? What I mean is we are literally starving. (We) can’t pay our bills and are going to be sleeping under bridges. I don’t know what else to do,” he said.
According to a spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, 85% of PUA is fraud and unfortunately in their attempt to address rampant fraud there are some claims tha get caught up in the holds.
CDLE plans to hold a meeting Friday morning with more information on current unemployment numbers and any current issues they’re working to address.