Group of Alabama legislators attempts surprise inspection of Department of Labor
A group of Republican House Representatives was stopped from making an unannounced inspection of the Alabama Department of Labor on Wednesday.
The representatives wanted answers as to why so many of their constituents have not been able to receive the unemployment benefits for which they applied.
The group was instead welcomed into Secretary of Labor Fitzgerald Washington’s office for a discussion on ways that the unprecedented number of unemployment claims could be handled more efficiently.
The group was led by State Rep. Craig Lipscomb (R-Gadsden) and included State Reps. Ginny Shaver (R-Leesburg), Brett Easterbrook (R-Fruitdale), Gil Isbell (R- Gadsden), Tracy Estes (R-Winfield) and Parker Moore (R-Decatur).
“My colleagues and I viewed this visit as a fact-finding mission,” Lipscomb told Yellowhammer News.
Washington, who Lipscomb described as a “good guy in a bad situation,” reportedly talked with the group of legislators for about 45 minutes.
“We know how difficult this is for the DOL,” Lipscomb allowed, before continuing, “but we need everyone giving 100% toward getting assistance to every eligible Alabamian.”
An emailed statement from the group said that many lawmakers have attempted to bridge the gap between a jobless constituent and an official at the DOL, but “the number of unanswered requests seemed to outnumber the success stories.”
“Let’s be honest. My people are hurting and they are turning to me for answers,” Estes told Yellowhammer on Thursday.
“All seven of us sitting in his office had one thing in common: a job. Those seeking help from his office do not and they are reaching out to their respective lawmakers for answers,” continued Estes.
Yellowhammer News’ request for comment from the Department of Labor was not immediately returned on Thursday.
The Department of Labor reported earlier this week that 84% of claims had been paid since the tidal wave of COVID-19 related job losses started in mid-March.
Secretary Washington said in a May 4 release, “ADOL is working around the clock to ensure that everyone who is entitled to these funds receives them.”
“[W]e know there are many still waiting, and you have not been forgotten,” added Washington in the release.
Check the status of a claim here: https://t.co/9FKyJWqO6e.
Please remember to practice patience. #TogetherAL
— Governor Kay Ivey (@GovernorKayIvey) May 7, 2020
“I cannot explain the feeling of helplessness these people have. We have had some good fortune in some instances, but not near the rate we should be having,” Estes remarked.
According to the legislators, Washington said his department will open an improved line of communication for lawmakers aiding those in the jobless application process.