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Coronavirus Layoffs Are Causing Huge Numbers Of People To Apply For Unemployment

The number of people filing for unemployment benefits surged by 70,000 last week, owing to coronavirus-related layoffs.

Posted on March 19, 2020, at 4:21 p.m. ET

John Locher / AP

People wait in line for help with unemployment benefits at the One-Stop Career Center in Las Vegas, March 17.

The number of Americans filing for unemployment jumped by 70,000 last week, the highest level since September 2017, because of the increase in coronavirus-related layoffs, according to the Department of Labor.

Thousands of people who have been recently laid off, lost their jobs, or had their work hours reduced were then subjected to further frustration after several states websites’ crashed because of high traffic. Many on social media were left confused and fearful over their eligibility for unemployment benefits, including those who were furloughed or on zero-hour contracts.

In Pennsylvania, an estimated 70,000 people applied for unemployment benefits in a single day, six times the total for the entire previous week, the Associated Press reported. In Ohio, during the first two days of the week, more than 48,000 people filed for benefits, compared to 1,825 people during the same period last week. New unemployment claims tripled in Tennessee, and Michigan received more than five times the normal amount of unemployment claims.

Minnesota said it was receiving over 2,000 unemployment insurance applications per hour, compared to the usual 40 or 50. The state said it typically receives 500 claims a day but had received more than 31,000 applications over the past two days.

Typically UI handles 40-50 new UI applications per hour. Yesterday, UI was taking over 2,000 per hour. Please use https://t.co/9qCUPzZvWj to maximize efficiency of the UI application process.

Many people were applying for unemployment benefits for the first time in their careers.

Today was a first for me. By recommendation of my employer I applied for unemployment benefits. This whole pandemic might not seem like a big deal because the virus itself isn't all that deadly, but it doesn't change the impact it is having on the entire population of the world.

My work has decided to close for the near future. First time in my life I’ll be filing for unemployment. This is fine.

The surge of people applying for benefits overwhelmed many states' phone lines and online systems, causing website crashes, technical glitches, and hourslong delays.

New Jersey officials say 15,000 people applied for unemployment benefits yesterday — and their system crashed.

My best friend in SC is a server and they closed yesterday. She tried filing for unemployment benefits today and the state’s website crashed. Unbelievable, but then again, it’s SC. She doesn’t know it, but I’m sending her a GC to help her through these times.

New York State's online unemployment portal won't let me get more than 2 pages into the application before my "session times out" (despite moving faster each time I re-do the damn thing). So let's hope if I try it later it'll work?

We also need more people on unemployment phones. Family members can’t get through and aren’t being paid https://t.co/sT9IHHL2Lt

States acknowledged that their systems were overwhelmed with the unprecedented rise in claims. Some, including New York, asked residents to file claims on certain days based on the first letter of their last names.

⚠️We apologize for the delays that you may be experiencing. Our UC service center is doing everything they can to serve your needs. 📨Please email us at uchelp@pa.gov, or via UC LiveChat: https://t.co/CuAXvnQe0K

@marinabajszar Hello, Due to an increase in unemployment claims, our call centers are experiencing longer wait times. We appreciate your patience and our staff are working to help everyone with their claim as fast as possible.

In addition to implementing a more efficient filing system based on UI applicants’ last names, we have also extended our telephone filing hours: •Mon - Thu: 8 am - 7:30 pm •Fri: 8 am - 6 pm •Sat: 7:30 am - 8 pm

The federal government has allowed states to amend their laws to expand eligibility of unemployment benefits because of the widespread impact of the pandemic. As each state's labor department issued its own guidance on eligibility in coronavirus-related scenarios, many people took to social media to express their uncertainty and fears over being ineligible.

The restaurant Trevin Cooper worked for in Charleston, South Carolina, closed on Monday and owners did not say when it would be reopening. Cooper, who bartends and does some administrative work for the restaurant, told BuzzFeed News that the restaurant was paying him $250 a week "until it no longer can." But because of that, he is ineligible for unemployment.

"I typically make $250 in one shift, and in the city I live in that can barely cover food costs, let alone the ridiculous price of rent," Cooper said. "I’m fortunate to have a family that is willing to help me, but the fact that I’m left incapable of helping myself is the hardest part."

Many others also found themselves in similar situations.

I think the reality of being off of work for at least the next two weeks is starting to set in. We were barely getting by living paycheck to paycheck. What happens when there is no paycheck? As a yoga instructor, I’m a 1099 employee ineligible for unemployment.

🚨 Starting tomorrow, the tattoo shop will be closed until April 1st (or until deemed safe). As an independent contractor I’m ineligible for unemployment and will be without income for the unforeseeable future.

Walmart did this to me. I was told I was fired so I applied for unemployment. They replied to the state that I wasn't "fired" I was just "off the schedule". Joke was on them because I recorded the phone call where she used the word "termination". Sadly, I doubt his bro did. https://t.co/n9zbdrKDdN

I’m in such a shitty position rn. The NYCDOE just offered subs essentially baby sitting jobs for the children of first responders. So because they offered those, I am not ineligible for unemployment pay. But I’m not really supposed to be working because of my asthma.

When you lose your job & find out you’re ineligible to file for unemployment because you’re a full time graduate student.. desperate times call for desperate measures. #feetpicsforsale

so i’m ineligible for unemployment because im still technically employed WITH WHAT HOURS BITCH

State and local representatives urged employers and administration officials to provide more clarity about unemployment benefits during the pandemic.

Update: This was resolved. But it shows that big employers and their franchises need to take the time to explain what’s happening, give employees options, understand that every state UI system and every person is different. Just slow down long enough to be humane. https://t.co/o6XkhVYAPh

@AnnaForFlorida Please inquire if an employer tells unemployment office person is not laid off BUT has zero hours scheduled does this make applicant ineligible for unemployment. ?

The US Senate on Wednesday passed major coronavirus aid legislation, which provides $1 billion in additional funding to state unemployment insurance programs and waives restrictions on work search requirements as well as waiting periods for Americans who are either diagnosed with COVID-19 or who have lost their jobs because of the pandemic. President Donald Trump signed the bill into law Wednesday night.

A group of Democratic senators sent a letter to all governors and heads of state workforce agencies in all 50 states, urging them to swiftly implement the provisions of the legislation to ease restrictions on emergency employment benefits.

The senators wrote that they were "especially concerned about the hardships" facing workers who were ineligible for unemployment benefits, including gig workers and other nontraditional workers.

"Given the severity of the crisis, we ask you to do whatever is possible to extend support to workers who do not fit into the usual framework of unemployment compensation," the letter said.


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