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6.64 million: Unemployment claims surge as states await federal guidance

Mark Bocchetti, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- More than 6.64 million workers filed initial claims for unemployment insurance in the week ending March 28, exceeding the 3.3 million who filed claims a week earlier, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

The record-setting filings in the most recent two weeks as the COVID-19 pandemic forces the shutdown of many businesses may nevertheless not be an accurate reflection of the depth of the employment problem as states provide different guidance on the benefits available.

"Similar to last week's unemployment claims numbers, today's report reflects the sacrifices American workers are making for their families, neighbors, and country in order to 'slow the spread,'" Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia said in a statement. "The Administration continues to act quickly to address this impact on American workers."

Some states, such as New York, have encouraged applications for the new benefits made available by the more than $2 trillion economic rescue enacted March 27 while other states still post guidance that does not reflect changes.

New York's Department of Labor is alerting the newly unemployed to the possibility of 39 weeks of benefits with an additional benefit of $600 a week. It is accepting applications now for the benefits.

"The site is so deluged that it keeps crashing, because you literally have hundreds of thousands of people at any time trying to get on the site," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a March 31 press conference.


State officials said that call volume, normally about 50,000 daily, had reached 1.2 million the day before and 7.8 million the previous week.

Florida, by contrast, has posted guidance that does not reflect enhanced benefits offered by the economic rescue bill. It refers to unemployment using its preferred term, reemployment assistance.

"You can file an application to determine the possibility of receiving Reemployment Assistance benefits," the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity says, in its posted guidance on COVID-19. "However, self-employed individuals generally do not pay Unemployment Insurance taxes and are not eligible for benefits."

The economic rescue package enacted last week includes many self-employed in the unemployment insurance benefits.


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