Alton Tisdale, a brick mason from Dinwiddle County, Virginia, had been trying to resolve an issue over receiving his unemployment benefits from the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) for four months after COVID-19 left him and one million other Virginians jobless.
“The work got slow, and I was like the last to get [hired] there,” Tisdale said to a WTVR 6 News Richmond. “So, I’d be the first to leave. I got laid off right after November 14th.”
After being denied benefits with no explanation as to why Tisdale made numerous attempts to contact the VEC.
“I went to the unemployment office and I couldn’t get through after I filed a claim,” said Tisdale. “They said I had an outstanding issue. But I could never find out what it was. I tried and tried, and they said it had been processed, and so I filed every week, but I never received any benefit.”
Tisdale was eventually forced to move in with his elderly mother and borrow money from an old friend, Alan Mullis (Delta Alpha–Western Carolina ’68) who he had worked for doing extensive brick masonry work building homes. Mullis did more than just lend money, he got involved trying to get a hold of the VEC.
“I got involved with the VEC trying to get his benefits and I couldn’t get anyone to answer,” said Mullis. “I took him to the office. They wouldn’t come to the door. I had my daughter, who is a University of Tennessee graduate, write a letter to the VEC. They have not responded to that. And I saw Alton struggling with VEC each week trying to make his claims, so my wife even got on the phone. We got on a computer, trying to get someone to give us an answer as to why Alton was not getting his benefits.”
Eventually, Mullis reached out to Bill Fitzgerald with CBS 6 on Tisdale’s behalf to see what they could do. About an hour after Fitzgerald contacted the VEC spokesperson, he got a response that the issue had been resolved, and sure enough, later that day Tisdale received a call from a commissioner of the unemployment office saying it was resolved and that he would be receiving his benefits on Monday including all the way back to November 14th.
“I’m so grateful because he is a person that pays into the system, he doesn’t try to abuse the system,” Mullis said about Tisdale. “These bricklayers, they work a while and they get laid off, and that’s the way the work is.”