COVID-19 Leading to Record Number of Unemployment Claims

COVID-19 is leading to unprecedented levels of unemployment. Indiana Department of Workforce Development Commissioner Fred Payne said Thursday that more than 146,000 initial unemployment claims were filed with his office last week.

That’s almost as many as the department saw during an entire month during the Great Recession. “These numbers show not only the volume of claims and calls are unmatched in history, but the rapid increase is unmatched, as well,” Payne commented during Thursday’s press conference. “Our goal is to ensure that people are able to file their claims and that we administer them as efficiently as possible.”

Payne said his department has been able to make about 169,000 unemployment insurance payments in the last two weeks.

The Department of Workforce Development is now updating its systems to reflect the state’s recent changes prompted by COVID-19, such as waiving the one-week waiting period and all late fees. It’s also working to incorporate changes made at the federal level, such as coverage for independent contractors and self-employed individuals, plus an additional $600-per-week payment for four months.

But Payne said it may take a while for Hoosiers to see those new benefits, due to the need for guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor. “As it relates specifically to the $600-a-week benefit, the guidance and subsequent implementation and payment may not occur any sooner than May,” Payne said. “Our guidance for those who will be covered under the new federal CARES Act is to know that we are working to get those benefits to you as quickly as possible.”

Payne added that starting next week, residents will be able to apply for unemployment over the phone, but will still be the fastest way to apply.