'You’re on an island all by yourself' COVID-19 survivor with complications struggles to get unemployment benefits

Isaiah Whalum
Posted at 5:44 PM, Dec 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-15 20:14:56-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A COVID-19 survivor who's suffering from long-term complications is fighting to get unemployment benefits right now.

Isaiah Whalum faced death and won. He spent 53 days at Williamson Medical Center battling COVID-19. Then, he was finally released to a rehab facility where he spent 10 days learning how to walk and do daily tasks again. Nearly nine months later, he's still dealing with health issues including chronic pain and breathing trouble.

"There will be a new normal for me because every day it’s something different in response to having COVID-19 and the effects it had on the body. Fatigue um it’s kind of lasting," Whalum said.

In addition to lingering complications, he never got unemployment money after filing for it.

"As of right now there’s no money coming into the pot," Whalum said.

As a chef, he's not able to work in his current condition.

"It’s a grind, even the mild cooking that I do for my family now just to keep myself active and moving, it’s a feat. If it’s a 20-minute meal, it’s going to take me about 2 hours and 30 minutes to recover," Whalum said.

For a while, he would wake up every day to call the Kentucky office to find out why he doesn't have an unemployment check yet.

"I think there’s so many people that need the help right now, so I’m trying to focus on the fact that I’m not the only one who needs help, because it will make you upset like you’re on an island all by yourself," Whalum said.

With seven kids to look after, he's hoping to get unemployment soon. If not, he wants his lingering health issues to dissolve so he can go back to work.

"It’s serious don’t take it lightly, it’s not just about your health, it’s about the effects that’s going to play into your life, after COVID," Whalum said.

We called Kentucky's unemployment help line several times on Tuesday trying to get some answers for Isaiah but no one answered or called back. He said he can't file in Tennessee because his last job was in the Bowling Green area before he got sick.