Even with reopening, experts say local unemployment claims may not slow that much

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KANSAS CITY, Mo — As people head back to work, some still haven’t gotten unemployment payments.

The first phase of metro reopening plans began Monday and will be completed by May 18.

Frustration with unemployment is turning to concern for some people who haven’t received their benefits.

“I am kind of at wits end at what else can be done,” Lisa Franiuk said. “Your hands are really tied. The system is just not set up for what it has had to handle.”

Franiuk, an esthetician at Lash Wax Spa, has been out of work since mid-March. Although she was approved for unemployment benefits, Franiuk has had difficulty collecting.

“You can call back in an hour and get the same message that says, ‘All agents are busy. Please call back in an hour,’ or you could do nothing,” Franiuk said.

On Thursday, a notification hit Franiuk’s bank account, indicating she has finally received a deposit, but only for last week’s unemployment. She has received nothing for the previous weeks she claimed.

Franiuk is worried she may not get that money.

“I am hoping that I get my back pay for unemployment and am able to play catch-up with some bills,” she said.

FOX4 reached out to the Kansas Department of Labor, which said anyone owed back payment will receive it, even if they return to work.

Last week, 3.2 million people in the U.S. filed for unemployment benefits, which is 600,000 less than the previous week.

Even though many businesses are on the brink of reopening, some experts say that doesn’t mean unemployment claims will slow down all that much.

“If I could call every one of my employees up right now and hire them back I would,” said George Clarke, manager of Charlie Hoopers Brookside Bar and Grill.

Hoopers has been able to stay afloat thanks to a government loan and takeout orders. Typically Clarke has 45-50 employees but is now only able to rehire 29 full-time workers to reopen.

“The problem is until we get our dining room to at least 50% capacity or more, it is just not realistic for me to rehire everybody,” Clarke said.

“Our restaurants were designed to pay costs to have fire code capacity and without that, it is going to be hard for a lot of restaurants in Kansas City survive.”

The unknown is how many people will come out once businesses are allowed to reopen. The soft opening in some parts of the metro started Monday, but at this time, not many businesses are expecting a windfall.

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