WEST BEND — Jillaine Kowske of West Bend worked as a nail tech at a hair salon. It closed on March 20 because of COVID-19. It took a while for her life to start turning around.
"I saw your news report with all of the faces. I cried because I could relate," Kowske said.
Kowske wasn't on the I-Team's October Zoom call where 36 people shared their struggles to get unemployment pay from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, but her story is similar to others. Out of a job, she applied for benefits in late March.
"They denied the PUA because they said I hadn't exhausted my regular unemployment benefits yet," Kowske said.
She filed an appeal and waited for months for an answer. She desperately needed the money.
"Everyone who was working was not working because of COVID," she said.
Kowske's husband lost his job at a manufacturing plant, and then her teenage son who worked in a restaurant was furloughed.
"So, he did get some unemployment so I felt horrible to ask my son if I could borrow money but I had no choice," she told the I-Team.
Kowske had to borrow money from her 17-year-old.
"When you're getting up in the morning and you feel like you're fighting to keep your apartment, to keep your car, to keep your bills going, to keep your electric on, keep your water running, it can really beat down on a person," she said.
Kowske reached out to Governor Tony Ever's office and lawmakers and emailed our station asking for help.
After eight months she received a letter in the mail. It stated the DWD's determination was reversed and she was eligible for PUA.
"I got all 34 weeks of back pay unemployment last Thursday -- just about $20,000," Kowske said.
Kowske has people, including her son, she needs to pay back.
"I had a few people who thought, 'you're never going to see that money.' It's just too messed up of a system," Kowske said.
She's happy she never gave up.
Kowske told the I-Team her husband was called back to work and that her family can now enjoy the holidays without worrying about paying rent or their bills.