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Open Letter to Governor Charlie Baker and the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance

Governor Baker,

It is difficult for me to express how disappointed and disgusted I am with your administration. The Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) is supposed to protect the rights and financial wellbeing of the state’s millions of workers. Instead, it is suffocating us with red tape and prolonged delays.

In early September 2021, my employer terminated me without cause. The details of my experience can be found here.

After answering many pages of questions online about my termination, the DUA asked me to verify my identity by uploading my driver’s license, passport, social security number, and a video-recording of myself to a third-party website. However, the identity verification provider’s agreement indicated that it could retain my information indefinitely. I was uncomfortable with an unknown company saving my face and most sensitive documents somewhere in the cloud forever, so I sought other options.

The DUA website was profoundly unhelpful, as were the customer service phone numbers. After hours of effort over multiple days, I learned that the only other way to verify my identity was to personally take my documents into the Boston DUA office. All the regional offices in Massachusetts were closed due to the pandemic.

This system discriminates against poor people, those who are not tech savvy, and residents who live far from Boston, and it forces unemployed people to create and surrender their personal digital identities.  It should be enough to have both employee and employer confirm the claim details, with the state adjudicating any disputes. This new system does not prevent identity theft or fraud and can be easily abused. It is a system of control, not of convenience.

My journey to Boston took most of the day. The designated parking garage charged an exorbitant hourly rate, even though it was covered in urine and had no functioning elevators. Despite substantial business failures and increasing unemployment in Massachusetts, the DUA office was virtually deserted. While the staff scanned my documents, no less than four security guards wandered the empty room, staring forlornly at the clock.

In the following weeks, I called several times to check my claim’s status but received no meaningful information. Finally in late October, I was asked to confirm that I had received the COVID-19 experimental vaccine. I did not feel comfortable providing that information to a stranger over the phone, and I inquired how this was relevant to my claim, but received no answer.

The next day, I was informed that my claim had been denied because I had “voluntarily resigned” due to my refusal to be vaccinated. This is a lie. I never confirmed my vaccination status to my employer or to the DUA. Furthermore, I have ample written evidence that I was terminated “without cause” and that I did not voluntarily resign. Left with no other recourse, I filed an appeal.

Nearly three months later, I have received no communication whatsoever from the DUA, and I am still waiting to present my evidence. There are many prompt pay statutes in Massachusetts. If the state does not tolerate such lengthy delays from insurance businesses, why is it acceptable for the state itself to act this way?

Is this justice, Governor Baker?

Your administration has prevented me from accessing assistance that is my right as an employee, a citizen, and a taxpayer. I have paid many thousands of dollars in unemployment insurance taxes, and now that I finally need it, the unemployment system has failed even its most basic responsibilities. If I did not have a working spouse, I would have been forced out of my apartment already and would have neither food nor a table to put it on.

Your administration is so lacking in accountability that it is impossible to even escalate a complaint. Who is in charge of the DUA? Neither the DUA website nor www.Mass.gov identify this person, and calls to your office go straight to voicemail.

Is the state truly providing services to its citizens, or is it the other way around? Are you and your administration representatives of the people of Massachusetts or our rulers? Will you step up and fix a system that is unjust? Will you help Massachusetts residents who are suffering and have been silenced?

Do the right thing, and fix this broken system. Salvage your legacy in the minds of the people who elected you.

The post Open Letter to Governor Charlie Baker and the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance appeared first on LewRockwell.

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