Record 311,000 file initial unemployment claims
By DAVID EGGERT and MIKE HOUSEHOLDER Associated Press
LANSING — Claims for unemployment benefits continued to skyrocket in Michigan last week during the coronavirus pandemic, when 311,000 people filed initial applications — more than double from the previous week.
The number of applications shattered the previous high of 128,000, which was set the prior week. The weekly record for new claims had been 77,000 in January 2009, during the Great Recession, which hit the state especially hard.
The unemployment system has been deluged. The website went down Tuesday before being restored.
The latest figures do not count Dana Simone — but not for a lack of trying.
“It’s just too overloaded right now. … There’s so many people trying to apply for benefits right now that both online and the phones are totally overloaded,” said Simone, a 34-year-old from Canton Township who is not being paid because the construction firm for which she works is not deemed essential by the state and therefore cannot operate normally.
The state Unemployment Insurance Agency has implemented a schedule for people to apply based on their last name. It is urging patience, recommending that users apply online late at night or early in the morning. The state also is working to expand the capacity of its online system.
Simone, the mother of a 10-year-boy, says it is “annoying” that she has not been able to get through to anyone regarding applying for benefits.
“I’m supposed to be able to take advantage of them and I can’t,” she said.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer encouraged people to keep trying to apply to a system she said is “completely overwhelmed.”
“We understand the incredible strain on the system, the incredible number of people that are impacted,” she said. “We’re going to work to make sure that people get the unemployment that they need to get through this crisis.”
In the last two weeks, overall jobless claims rose by nearly 421,000 over the prior two-week period, according to the state.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.