As too many Montanans know, the COVID-19 outbreak is not only impacting the health of our communities, it’s impacting state and national economies. “We went from having a very low unemployment rate statewide to facing an absolute crisis,” says MFPE member Brent Beardslee, an unemployment insurance claims adjudicator with the State of Montana. “Our phone lines have been ringing off the hook.”
Members like Beardslee do critical work to help Montana families and communities make it through crises like the one we are currently facing.
“Everyone in the agency has been working in crisis mode to get as much work done as possible,” Beardslee tells us. “The programmers with our IT department have been amazing with everything they do and we have opened up overtime options for employees just to have as much time in the day as possible.”
Beardslee’s work doesn’t stop at the office either. “I have been putting myself out there as much as possible to encourage everyone I know to file a claim if their hours have been reduced, or if they have been laid off. So many family and friends have approached me with questions about filing for unemployment insurance. And I try to do my best to answer their questions in a professional manner, but the need for help is incredible right now as we face economic collapse.”
While dealing with an increased workload, Beardslee is also looking to the future. “I hope that the future we build from this won’t be another house of match sticks over an open flame. People need access to affordable healthcare. Workers need basic protections like sick leave. We shouldn’t let people continue to work for poverty wages. I hope that we as a society realize that we can build a better future that values all workers. We all get up and go to work for ourselves, our families, and our communities.”