Family waiting on unemployment forced to sell ‘everything out of house’

Aug 5, 2020, 5:27 AM

Unemployment fraud, wa unemployment...

A stack of unemployment forms. (Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

The Employment Security Department announced Monday that the initial backlog of over 81,000 people who had made unemployment claims between March and mid-June has at last been cleared, in an effort dubbed “Operation 100%.”

But many people who applied during that time period said they have received neither funds nor any word of when those funds might be coming.

On a Facebook post made in a group for unemployed Washingtonians, hundreds of people told KIRO Radio they filed before mid-June and still are waiting for a response from ESD.

For the Cichocki family of Kennewick, this delay came at a huge price.

Furloughed single mom details being locked out of unemployment

Vincent Cichocki started a construction company last fall, but had to shut down during the stay-at-home order in March. That was when he said he first filed for unemployment, as the CARES Act permitted self-employed individuals to collect unemployment benefits.

But in the months since, his claims have only ever said “pending.”

Cichocki said he has called about “30 times a day for weeks at a time,” but has never gotten through.

“You just get an unavailable kind of tone, and then you would just try again and hope that it would ring, … and then they announced that they weren’t doing phone calls anymore and they were going to call you, but I never received a call or a voicemail,” he said. “So I just proceeded to email them, but I never once got a response back.”

Cichocki is the breadwinner for a family of three that’s set to grow to four in October — his wife, Casey, is expecting a daughter. After months with no income and no unemployment payments coming in, the family began selling what they could.

“We were about two months out of no income, we didn’t have a whole lot more than that saved up,” Cichocki said. “So over a period of time, we sold everything — boat, trailer, extra cars — we pretty much sold everything out of the house.”

They even put their house on the market and planned to move into an apartment.

“It’s hard to turn around and explain to your kid that you have to sell all of your stuff, even his trampoline and his play set, because we’re moving,” Cichocki said.

In the meantime, they’ve also had to close the family construction business. Cichocki searched as far away as Alaska for jobs.

Last month, Cichocki eventually found a position working under an old boss again that allowed the family to keep the house.

However, trying to recover from four months without an income is no easy feat. To make matters worse, their home HVAC system happened to go out right at that time.

“It’s hard to afford right now, to drain everything you have, and then it’s like, ‘All right, bounce back … go be a homeowner again,'” he said. “‘Go replace your HVAC, go fix your leaky roof, go fix your hot water heater.'”

Cichocki thinks his family will never see the money they’re owed, and feels let down by the state.

“I think it’s a little bold of them to say they’re completely caught up in their payments when they’re not,” he said. “When we closed everything down, you had that security blanket, that comfort, [of the state] saying, ‘You can stay home, we have you. You can pay your bills, you’re going to get paid your unemployment, with an additional $600 per month.’ And then you wait … and it never happens, and you kind of lose hope in the whole system.”

Still, he feels grateful to have a roof over his head and a new job, even if it was a step back.

“There have to be way more people out there with a similar story, same issue. … Even though it was difficult, I know that there are people out there who are less fortunate than I am, who are still in a predicament,” he said.

MyNorthwest News

tiny home fire...

Frank Sumrall

Arrest made in Seattle’s Queen Anne tiny home fire

Seattle Police made an arrest after a fire broke out at a tiny home village Thursday morning in Seattle's Queen Anne neighborhood.

57 minutes ago

Trump convention speech...


Trump: ‘The discord and division in our society must be healed’

Donald Trump accepted the GOP presidential nomination on Thursday at the Republican National Convention and said the country must 'heal.'

11 hours ago

Image: A Tacoma Police Department vehicle is seen on a street....

Steve Coogan

Human finger found in Tacoma driveway IDed, returned to owner

The case of a mysterious human finger found in a Tacoma driveway earlier this month has been solved and the digit was returned to its owner.

14 hours ago

Photo: Police are looking for a Tacoma serial arsonist after a rash of fires. This photo is of a fi...

James Lynch

Tacoma police looking for serial arsonist after rash of fires endanger lives, property

Tacoma police are currently searching for a serial arsonist after a rash of fires in the area endangered lives and property.

15 hours ago

Photo: This man was arrested in connection with a Kent attempted kidnapping on July 16, 2024....

Julia Dallas

Bail set: 11-year-old girls save 6-year-old from being kidnapped in Kent

A man was arrested and bail set for allegedly trying to kidnap a 6-year-old. Fortunately, three 11-year-old girls stepped in.

16 hours ago

Photo: Data from the Downtown Seattle Association confirmed visitors are coming back to downtown, f...

Julia Dallas

Visitors are filling downtown Seattle streets near pre-pandemic levels

Data from the Downtown Seattle Association confirmed visitors are coming back to downtown, filling the streets at levels close to 2019.

18 hours ago

Family waiting on unemployment forced to sell ‘everything out of house’