Unemployment claims skyrocket

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By Michael Puffer, Republican-American

WATERBURY — Applications for unemployment compensation in Connecticut skyrocketed last week as the coronavirus pandemic forced businesses to close and residents to shelter inside their homes.

David Lehman, director of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development said claims are running more than 20 times normal volume.

“It was 12,000 yesterday (March 18),” Lehman said. “It has been about 10,000 day before that, and a typical day is roughly 500 per day. So, this is significant, and we have increased the capacity in manpower and the hours of the Department of Labor to make sure we can process this claims as they come in.”

Steve Jensen, director of communication for the Connecticut Department of Labor said the agency typically receives about 2,500 new claims in a week.

The agency received 2,000 claims for assistance March 13, according to Jensen. It received about 8,000 on March 15 and March 15; then 10,000 March 16, and again Tuesday; 12,000 March 18 and more than 14,000 March 19.

In all, more than 56,000 claims for unemployment came in over the span.

The agency is shifting personnel to process the new claims, with Gov. Ned Lamont authorizing overtime.

Those who qualify will be compensated at roughly half of their weekly earnings over the prior 15 months, according to Jensen. Benefits run for 26 weeks, with any extension requiring federal action. During the last recession, President Obama extended unemployment benefits to 99 weeks.

The average weekly benefit is $376, with a maximum of $649. Dependent credits of $15 for up to five children are also available.

The Connecticut Department of Labor has closed offices across the state March 19 to help avoid spreading the virus, and so all unemployment claims must be made online at www.filectui.com.

According to the Department of Labor, residents interested in applying should do so as soon as possible, giving them a greater chance of being qualified. People should not wait for paperwork from their employers to file, but can speed processing by having their employer’s registration number an anticipated return-to-work date.

The Department of Labor is finalizing a waiver of work search requirements for residents who are unemployed due to the pandemic, according to Juliemar Ortiz, spokeswoman for Lt. Gov. Susan Byseiwicz.