NC unemployment claims pass 300,000 in 2 weeks
Unprecedented numbers due to COVID-19 layoffs.Posted — Updated
The figure is unprecedented. Even during the recession years of the late 2000s, this would have been more than four months worth of new claims.
The 300,000-plus claims have come in since March 16, a span of about two weeks. The number is approaching twice what the state Division of Employment Security saw in all of 2019, when claims averaged about 3,200 a week.
The division took in more than 17,800 new claims Monday. Lobbyists for the state's restaurant and hotel industries told lawmakers Tuesday that more than 370,000 of their sectors' employees are out of work.
"I've [at] a minimum of 40 times a day called, and I've emailed more than a dozen times," said Bryan Walston, who was laid off two weeks ago from his job at a Bridgestone Tire plant in Wilson.
"That's when the process started with no communication. It hangs up on you every time you call," he said. "It's been difficult and very frustrating for a lot of my coworkers. Being out of work is a big issue."
Gov. Roy Cooper said Tuesday afternoon that DES has added a new server and contracted with an additional call center to handle some of the volume.
“Everyone of those claims is important," Cooper said during a news conference. "People over there are working so hard.”
DES officials said the first $3.4 million in unemployment checks have already been issued.
"We're pushing, pushing, pushing, and we want to get this money out to people because the families need it and our economy needs it," Cooper said.
The division said it's awaiting federal guidance on how to run a new program that will pay unemployment benefits to people who typically aren't eligible, including independent contractors and the self-employed.
Walston said he understands the struggle to handle the unprecedented mountain of claims, but he just wants the state to acknowledge his struggle.
"It's even more frustrating that you don't get any kind of answers," he said.
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