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I-Team helps Johnson County COVID-19 long hauler obtain unemployment benefits

Kevin Brown
Posted at 5:00 AM, Jun 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-08 09:42:51-04

OVERLAND PARK, Kan.  — A Johnson County man has received unemployment benefits after the Missouri Department of Labor had denied his requests for months.

Kevin Brown saw his first unemployment check at the end of May.

"The first thing I said to myself is, 'Is this woman kidding me?'" Brown said.

Brown was diagnosed with COVID-19 in January and spent months in the intensive-care unit. A lingering infection in one of his lungs left him unable to work.

Despite being on round-the-clock oxygen and unable to stand up for extended period's of time, Brown struggled to get approved for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or PUA.

While Brown lives in Kansas, he worked in Missouri, so unemployment benefits needed to be provided by Missouri Department of Labor.

"I talked to a woman, she said, 'Oh, you're not eligible for nothing,'" Brown said.

Frustrated by the process, Brown called the I-Team, which contacted Maura Browning, spokesperson for the Missouri Department of Labor. Browning took Brown's contact information and said someone would look into the matter.

"The next thing I know, I got a call telling me that she had approved the PUA benefits," Brown said. "If it wasn't for you (41 Action News), I don't think we would've (got the call)."

Brown and his wife, Danna, are selling their home to make up for lost income over the past several months. While the money comes too late to save their home, they said they're at peace with it.

"There are worse things," Brown said, "because like I told her (Danna), I wasn't supposed to be sitting here."

While in the ICU, Brown's oxygen levels dropped so that low doctors told him he needed to go on a ventilator, but he refused out of fear he wouldn't wake up.

"I had to drop him off at the door, and I wasn't sure I'd be able to see him again," Danna Brown said.

Kevin Brown recently received more good news — this time, from his doctor.

"He says that they're hearing rumbling in the left lung, so the left lung is getting something," Brown said. "But it's not to the point where I'll be jogging or walking without oxygen (any) time soon."

Brown used to work as a truck driver. He said he put in more than 60 hours a week and that he loved his job.

He's now looking for work-from-home opportunities. Brown has experience in graphic design.