Pandemic pauses Kansas City pet sitter’s business
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For years, Susanne McDaniel worked in radio and ran her own advertising company.
But, her love for animals eventually prompted her to switch careers.
“In 2018, I decided to close my adverse advertising agency and pet-sit full time,” she said.
She runs her business, Ruby’s Pet Retreat (named after her first dog, Ruby) out of her Kansas City, Missouri, home. Dogs are able to stay and play with her own four rescue pups. For cats and other small animals, she makes house calls.
“Business was booming,” McDaniel said. “I was booked just about every single day out of each month. Then, the pandemic hit, and in March when they started to shut down, I was getting cancellation after cancellation.”
McDaniel said pet owners usually need her services to board their animals while traveling. But, with COVID-19 restrictions and warnings, her clients aren’t travelling, and that means she has no source of income.
“It is a very difficult situation,” she said, noting she’s been relying on family and friends to help cover her mounting bills. “I’ve lived in this home for 25 years, and I would like to stay here.”
Because she’s self-employed, McDaniel doesn’t qualify for unemployment. But, she is eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA,) something that’s available for contract or gig workers.
That funding stopped coming in back in July, so reached out to 41 Action News for help.
“I thought, ‘I’m just going to reach out and ask you,’ because you help so many other small businesses,” McDaniel said.
41 Action News provided McDaniel’s contact information to the Missouri Department of Labor, and while they couldn’t comment specifically on her case, said someone would reach out to her.
The next day, they made good on that promise and McDaniel said she received a much-appreciated phone call.
“What we were able to do was go back to the weeks that I had missed filing, and (the claims assistant) went through week by week with me to help me file for those missed weeks,” she said.
McDaniel said she mistakenly believed the $600 a week PUA money expired with the CARES Act funding over the summer. So, when the money initially stopped coming in, she chalked it up to that.
When she learned PUA funds still were available, she tried to register but saw she already had an account. What she didn’t realize was that to receive funds through PUA a new claim must be filed each week.
Having explained her situation, she said, the Department of Labor now is working to get her backpay for all the weeks she missed.
Meanwhile, she said she wanted to share her story in the hopes that her experience will help others.
“The self-employed assistance is out there, and it’s just a matter of asking questions,” McDaniel said. “What I did is call KSHB 41 for help because I watch your Rebound program, your Rebound segment, and that’s what helped me.”
When asked if this is an issue they’ve dealt with before, a Missouri Department of Labor representative said that sometimes claimants do make mistakes.
Those who have experienced problems receiving PUA payments can check their account information online, including any correspondence, by logging in to their account at UInteract.labor.mo.gov.
“If they have questions about their account, they can call one of the regional claims centers and a claims specialist can review their account with them, or alternately, a claimant may request assistance online at labor.mo.gov/claimant-form,” the spokesperson said.
Currently, the last payable week for PUA is the week of Dec. 20. For McDaniel, this is a temporary solution to help her keep afloat until a time when she hopes travel resumes and her business picks back up.
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