Genesee County, MI (WNEM) — As the pandemic lingers the uncertainty surrounding childcare and in-person learning for school-aged children is unprecedented for parents. One local father is resorting to desperate measures after his unemployment benefits were cut off.
Finding a source of income has been tough for Michael Craft with no childcare options for his son with special needs.
“When my son and I go for walks I pick up pop cans. I’m digging in my couch looking for pennies. Anything for money,” Craft said.
For his family, this has been a tough year because of COVID-19. Craft originally filed for unemployment insurance benefits right before the pandemic shut down because his work in landscaping is seasonal.
Craft even received benefits with no issue until October. In October. His unemployment benefits were cut, and they asked him to pay some of it back.
“All my bills are in red. They’re ready to come pick up my car. I’m desperate I don’t know what to do,” Craft said.
Craft moved from Alabama to Genesee County in 2019 so his seven-year-old son, Bryant, who has autism could get a better education.
Once COVID-19 hit, Craft got divorced from a woman who was not his son’s mother and he couldn’t find a daycare that catered to children with special needs.
“I’ve never been in the predicament that I could not “work” my way out of. I’ve worked ever since I was old enough to work,” Craft said.
So that is how Craft met attorney Cristine Wasserman who works with Legal Services of Eastern Michigan. She has reviewed Craft’s case and has been working extensively to make sure Craft gets what he’s owed, but it hasn’t been easy.
“He has the work history. He has all the eligibility requirements that you need to collect regular unemployment benefits,” Wasserman said.
Wasserman said unemployment traditionally does not provide benefits in the case that a person has problems finding work because of childcare. The Cares Act changed that the UIA began to use that as a valid reason to be off work.
That is why Craft’s being denied benefits according to Wasserman. She said because of a glitch in system.
They cannot fix the problem no matter who they talk to. To date Craft owes over $1800 and the UIA is going to start charging him interest.
Wasserman said unemployment won’t even talk to her. Adding that she has dozens of clients with the same story.
“Talking with someone that has both the knowledge and authority to fix something is impossible. It’s impossible,” Wasserman said.
Craft is now selling his house and is hoping to find enough pop cans to keep his car for another month – while his benefits are in limbo. He is also hoping someone will give him a job that could align better with his son’s school schedule.
“Everything gets to me with this, why can’t I get somebody to talk to me? About my money that I deserve. I don’t want my kid to go without,” Craft said.
A GoFundMe has also been created to help.
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