MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WHNT) — Some Alabamians who are out-of-work say they are frustrated with how long it’s taking the Alabama Department of Labor to process federal unemployment insurance claims.

Back in February this year, Alabama distributed 25% — the least of any state — of unemployment benefits within 21 days, according to data from the U.S. Department of Labor.

That number has since climbed to 60% as of the end of this July.

But many who applied are still wondering when or if they may receive benefits, including Anna of Birmingham.

“People don’t expect to lose their job in this economy, and the whole point of paying into the unemployment insurance every paycheck is so that you can get your benefits when you need them,” Anna said.

Anna lost her administrative assistant job at the end of January and has been looking for work. She says she filed her claim in early February.

Now nearly seven months later, she says the state Labor Department has not given her a timeline for when or if she might receive benefits.

“The last person I talked to said that it was COVID delays that they just haven’t been able to catch up. I asked her, I said, well, you know, do you think it will be six months, two years? And she said she hoped it would be less than two years,” Anna said.

The Alabama Department of Labor has not responded to multiple requests for comment sent both Tuesday and Wednesday this week.

News 19 previously covered this issue in December 2022, and at that time, the Department’s Communications Director Tara Hutchison said the Department was “underfunded and understaffed,” and still working through a backlog of claims from the pandemic.

According to U.S. Labor Department figures ending in July, Alabama is among the bottom five states for the percentage of benefits paid within 21 days at 60%. The national average is currently 79%.