In March, Hannah Priest filed for unemployment for the first time in her life. The St. Louis restaurant where she worked as a server, Union Loafers, closed dine-in service because of the pandemic.
A simple mistake on her application set her back weeks. She quickly realized the error, but day after day couldn’t cut through the busy phone lines of the Missouri Department of Labor. Meanwhile, she watched the balance in her bank account dwindle.
Priest is one of the hundreds of thousands in Missouri who made unemployment insurance claims as the coronavirus outbreak drove employers to furlough and lay off workers. She’s also among many who say they’ve been frustrated navigating an overwhelmed state unemployment system.