The Alabama Department of Labor has been overwhelmed with unemployment claims in the last two weeks, owing to the virus crisis. Many are having trouble applying for claims, and payments are taking up to 21 days to reach the unemployed.
“We have seen an overwhelming number of employees filing claims for unemployment compensation benefits,” said Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington. “We understand and realize that many people are having trouble applying – we are working on correcting the situation constantly, and more and more people are getting through with each day that passes.”
Labor Department spokeswoman Tara Hutchison told WBHM about 100 extra employees have been shifted from career centers to answering claims and Labor is considering contracting with an outside call center to handle the overflow.
About 67 percent of the claims filed March 27 to April 3 were COVID related, a total of 22,646, with benefits totaling just more than $6 million.
The week prior, March 22 to March 28, 92 percent of claims were COVID related, a total of 74,844. Of those, 14,752 were in food service, 11,032 in manufacturing, 6,254 in health and social assistance services and 4,996 in retail.
COVID-related claims only began showing up in that second half of March. The week of March 15 to March 21, there were a total of 10,982 claims, none marked by the Labor Department as related to the virus crisis.
Three new unemployment benefit programs are contained in the CARES Act, Hutchison told WBHM, but the Labor Department is just beginning to get guidance on from the feds on how to draw on those resources.
“Our staff is beginning to figure out exactly who will qualify for all those programs and then how do we process those claims. Maybe most importantly how will we pay those claims.”