Charles Gray is “nervous.”

His friend, Matt Heath, is taking temporary unemployment “for what it is worth.”

With the city’s largest employer’s doors shuttered 30 to 60 days, more than 4,600 Chrysler workers are using WorkOne services.

While Chrysler is under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, the automaker is providing its workers with supplemental pay and hourly workers are filing for unemployment benefits.

Salaried workers, however, are scheduled to take a two-week unpaid furlough.

Monday, in New York bankruptcy court, it was revealed the nation’s smallest automaker lost $16 billion last year and is spending $1.7 billion a month.

When Chrysler filed for bankruptcy last week, it had $660 million in cash. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Arthur Gonzalez said the company must keep $260 million in cash.

He will authorize the company spending $400 million to pay suppliers, reimburse dealers’ warranty costs and cover any other “essential expenses.”

“I don’t like this,” said Heath, after he and Gray enjoyed their Harley-Davidsons Tuesday afternoon, “but you do what you have to do.”

However, some Chrysler employees said they discovered if they didn’t reactivate their unemployment claims by May 1 — the day Chrysler announced it was shuttering its plants — they missed a week of unemployment benefits.

“Not everyone got the letter that told them to refile by May 1,” said Gray. “That’s a week we won’t get back.”

That may not be the case.

WorkOne will assist workers to ensure they get all the benefits they are entitled, said a WorkOne spokesperson.

Another benefit includes opening an auxiliary WorkOne site — staffed with WorkOne employees and computers — to assist Chrysler workers at Inventrek Technology Park, 700 E. Firmin St.

“We worked with the UAW and Chrysler prior to this. With their annual, traditional furlough, they are very familiar with the system,” said Mark Lotter, WorkOne’s director of communications.

“We have an auxiliary facility ready. There is additional space available there to handle the overflow of primarily Chrysler workers. It’s not uncommon if some workers have problems reopening their claims, but we are more than willing to work with them to resolve the issues so they receive all their benefits.”

Although Gray and Heath appreciate the unemployment benefits, what they want more is to return to work at one of Chrysler’s transmission plants.

“I get nervous being out of work,” said Gray, who has worked at Indiana Transmission Plant I for 11 years. Heath has been at Chrysler for 16 years.

“I like knowing I have a job to go to. A week off here or a week there is OK, but when it is extended, I get nervous. I have a family. We’ve got too much time in to take a buyout and not enough for retirement.”

K.O. Jackson is the Kokomo Tribune’s business reporter. Contact him at (765) 854-6739 or

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