State says it’s catching up with jobless claims

State House News Service
Published: 4/10/2020 4:20:22 PM
Modified: 4/10/2020 4:20:06 PM

More than 600 state employees are now working to field a record level of unemployment claims, and the administration will soon launch a Spanish-only application to remove language barriers some applicants face, Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday.

With almost 470,000 new claims for jobless benefits filed in the past three weeks, the constituent service team in the Department of Unemployment Assistance has grown from 50 people about three weeks ago to more than 600 handling calls remotely. Baker said the team has made more than 60,000 calls and is up to about 6,000 per day, an amount that “will continue to trend up as we go forward.”

More than 250,000 claimants in Massachusetts were receiving compensation as of Thursday, Baker said, with more still pending in the application process. The governor acknowledged that some in need have struggled with the website portal or are frustrated while they wait for calls back from the department, and he pledged that the administration is “working this one hard.”

Applications surged to historic levels both nationwide and in Massachusetts amid the coronavirus outbreak. More than 10 percent of the entire labor force has sought aid during the past three weeks alone.

“These numbers, obviously, are staggering, and we all know the story behind all of them is about more than just numbers,” Baker said. “Between every new claim is a story of economic disruption and hardship caused by the unprecedented impact of this virus. We all know the virus has caused people to lose their jobs, almost all cases through no fault of their own, and has created significant anxiety in households across the commonwealth and across the country.”

Baker announced Thursday that current unemployment insurance recipients will soon start receiving an additional $600 per week as provided for in the more than $2 trillion federal stimulus bill.

Previously ineligible workers, such as those who are self-employed, also will be able to apply for benefits by the end of the month.

“We know this is frustrating for many, many people here in Massachusetts, people who have lost their job through no fault of their own and are trying hard to access funds that they need to get by,” Baker said. “In the new federal CARES Act, those benefits haven’t been able to be made available as quickly as any of us would like, but you have our commitment that we’re going to continue to do all we can to get the resources out the door to help workers impacted by this unprecedented situation.”


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