An extra $5 a week is costing local Staples employee $1,000 in weekly unemployment benefits

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AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — An extra $5 a week of income is costing a local woman $1,000 a week in unemployment benefits.

“It is very stressful. It’s been four weeks without unemployment pay, so I’m barely making any money to survive. If it wasn’t for my family helping me, I… pretty much would’ve lost everything” said Jordan Davis.

The 30-year-old works at a Staples fulfillment warehouse in Aurora.

The company cut most workers to 20 hours a week due the COVID-19 outbreak and told employees to seek unemployment benefits to cover the other 20 hours a week.

That sounded fine to Davis until she learned she made $5 a week too much to qualify for benefits.

“It’s pretty cruel,” said Davis. “It’s kind of like… the joke is playing itself out on me.”

At first, Davis thought she could simply ask her manager to reduce her hours…even by just 15-minutes a week, but the offer was rejected.

“I actually really liked working for them until now. . . but now I’m like, do I work for a company who doesn’t seem to really take care of their employees during a difficult time?”

FOX31 asked Philip Spesshardt, the Branch Manager of Benefits Services for the Colorado Division of Unemployment Insurance to explain how $5 of income could cost Davis nearly $1,000 in unemployment benefits.

Spessardt looked at Davis’ claim and noted she would qualify for $396 a week in unemployment benefits based on her 2019 income but only if she currently makes less than $396 a week and currently she makes $400 a week as a part-time worker.

By email, Spesshardt shared the following with the Problem Solvers:

“Individuals are eligible for partial unemployment benefits if their earnings are less than the weekly benefit amount and they are working less than 32 hours per week. For a good number of folks, they can be working well less than 32 hours per week but earn more than the weekly benefit amount. Any week in which a person works less than 32 hours but earns more than their weekly benefit amount, they are not eligible for any partial payment. As such, the individual would also not be eligible for the extra $600 payment either.”

The $600 benefit Spesshardt refers to is part of the CARES Act Congress passed to provide an additional $600 a week through July to anyone collecting unemployment benefits.

As a result, the $400 a week of income Davis collects means she’s just barely not eligible for nearly a $1,000 in unemployment payments.

“She actually earns $5 per week too much,” wrote Spesshardt, before adding, “If she earned $395 per week, she would be eligible for benefits plus the extra $600.”

Investigative Reporter Rob Low asked Davis, “Would you be better off not working at all so you could collect unemployment benefits?” and Davis responded, “I would. I actually asked to be furloughed 100 percent, if they wouldn’t help me.”

Davis said so far, Staples has refused to help.

“They were like, ‘We’re not going to change from 20 hours because it’s going to take too much detail to try to switch things around for everybody to make it fair because other people, not just you, are having the same problem.'”

A spokeswoman for the Staples told the Problem Solvers Davis needed to speak to her human resource manager, but she had already tried that without success before reaching out to the Problem Solvers.

“They don’t really seem to be like compassionate about it either. I’m even worried about reaching out to other people for help, like, are they going to fire me? But at the same time I don’t want to work for a company who is going to leave me high and dry.”

On Thursday, a Staples spokeswoman emailed FOX31 the following:

“The fact pattern shared is not consistent, to our knowledge, with the eligibility parameters for CO unemployment insurance. Staples has resources in place to assist with the unemployment application process (in all states we operate) and encourages associates to reach out to HR Services with questions or concerns.”

Staples has not responded to follow-up questions from FOX31, which include documentation from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment to show Davis is in fact being penalized for making $5 too much to qualify for unemployment benefits.

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