Problem Solvers help struggling business owner: 'When there is a small little light at the end of the tunnel - boom - something else hits me'

Posted at 5:37 PM, Nov 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-25 00:18:28-05

MIDLOTHIAN, Va. -- Occupational therapist Sally Walker-Cruden opened CARA Therapy, an outpatient clinic in Midlothian for kids with special needs, in January.

"Primarily it's pediatrics children with developmental delays, autism, ADHD, cystic fibrosis, Down syndrome," Walker-Cruden said.

Within two months, she had to shut it down.

"When pandemic hit on March 13, I had to close my doors," Walker-Cruden said. "We didn't really reopen until September."

In those nearly six months, Walker-Cruden said she lost all of her income.

She applied for unemployment through the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) in April, but payments abruptly stopped in June.

Walker-Cruden ended up being one of tens of thousands in Virginia who had some sort of issue with their claim that needed to be adjudicated by a hearing officer.

"I called, I went online, nothing happened until I reached out to you, and then a process started," Walker-Cruden said.

She finally contacted the CBS 6 Problem Solvers after waiting for more than four months, and within days we were able to help her get a hearing, which led to her getting paid benefits.

"I paid for my mortgage for my townhouse, and then I paid for the clinic," Walker-Cruden said.

The money gave her a huge boost, and yet she knows others are still struggling.

There remains a backlog of around 70,000 claims with issues, according to VEC spokeswoman Joyce Fogg. And the agency is just getting around to adjudicating claims filed in July.

Despite getting her VEC benefits, Walker-Cruden is now facing a second pandemic hardship.

"It just seems like just when there is a small little light at the end of the tunnel boom something else hits me," Walker-Cruden said.

Earlier this month, her landlord told her that she owed two months' worth of rent and that she would be evicted within 14 days if she did not come up with roughly $8,000.

"I'm in sheer panic, I am not sleeping at night," Walker-Cruden said.

She showed us her business bank account and pointed out two large payments in October that appear to be for September and October rent, but a representative for the landlord said he never received them.

"I reached out to the bank and they said, well you have to come in and fill out a form, and then it takes 10-14 business days for us to investigate where the money went," Walker-Cruden said.

When the Problem Solvers contacted the landlord's representative, the landlord agreed to give Walker-Cruden until December 4 to pay September through December rent.

"I love what I do, I worked very hard for that clinic, and I just would like a little more time, it's not that I don't want to pay them," Walker-Cruden said.

The representative for Walker-Cruden's landlord said they have no record of the September and October rent payments.

Walker-Cruden has initiated an investigation with her bank to figure out what might have happened to her checks.

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