Lonnie is a 56-year-old grandmother from Roseburg. When COVID-19 hit, she was furloughed and needed unemployment benefits to keep food on the table and a roof over her head.

Lonnie’s situation was confusing, however, and she spent hours on hold with an overwhelmed employment department. When she got through, she was relieved to hear she qualified for benefits.

By taking a lower-paying position as soon as it became available, Lonnie was able to get off unemployment quickly. Unfortunately, the employment department was reviewing her past claim, and was reconsidering their earlier advice. Lonnie got a call while she was on break from her new job, and spoke with an agent who demanded details she couldn’t produce on the spot.

Over Christmas break, Lonnie learned that her past benefits had been reevaluated and she had to repay almost $10,000. She felt sick and cried for two days. She needed a lawyer, but didn’t think she could afford one until she found legal aid.

Without legal aid, Lonnie was overwhelmed, and felt like she was being ignored. When Lonnie’s legal aid lawyer stepped in, it became clear that Lonnie was entitled to her unemployment benefits, even if she didn’t know how to make the legal arguments on her own. In the end, the employment department dramatically reduced its repayment demand to only $378, a modest sum Lonnie was able to repay. Lonnie says that “just having the support from legal aid, it lessened the stress.”

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