Historic Jobless Claims Lead To Busy Phone Lines, Uncertainty On Federal Aid
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Tens of thousands of Utahns are in limbo, waiting on word about their unemployment checks. Calls and emails into the KSL newsroom tell of people waiting on hold for hours when calling to get information on unemployment benefits.
Mass Influx Of Unemployment Claims
Last week, the Utah Department of Workforce Services announced 19,951 new unemployment claims for the week of March 15 to March 21, 2020. That marked a 1,391 percent increase in claims from the previous week.
The Unemployment Insurance Division said many of those filing have never done so before, leading to many calls with questions.
“The queues are being filled up by individuals that don’t need to call us,” said the division’s director, Kevin Burt.
Burt said there’s no need to call once a claim has been filed, and doing so actually hinders the response and processing time of the division. If there are questions regarding the claim, the division will contact the claimant.
In general, a benefit is paid in 21 days from the date the claim is filed. However, Burt said there may be some delays in benefit processing times.
How CARES Act Figures In
Unemployment benefits have been expanded to include some who wouldn’t normally be eligible thanks to the federal stimulus act.
But many who now qualify will need to wait until the rules and disbursement are figured out on the state level.
“There are some individuals—the self-employed and some individuals in religious institutions—that are not paying into the unemployment trust fund, not paying a tax,” said Burt. “As a result, they’re not currently eligible for unemployment benefits.”
Some of that will change once the federal government provides instructions to Utah on how to administer the stimulus act. The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program will expand benefits to:
- Independent contractors
- Those working in the “gig economy” like events
Unemployed Utahns would also get an extra $600 per week beyond the state’s standard unemployment benefit.
“What we do know is that if you have applied for unemployment, you do not need to apply again,” said Burt. “Just continue to file your weekly claim and once we have that guidance, and once that $600 is available, and once we’ve been able to figure out how to administer it, then that $600 will appear just like with your unemployment claim.”
What To Do When Filing A Claim
Burt took us through the steps Utahns need to take if now finding themselves unemployed: ·
- Apply online and completely finish the application
- Have your social security number and driver license ready
- Prepare a list of all your employers since October 2018
- Do not call. The office will reach out if there is a problem with your application
The unemployment office is still sticking with the general timeline of two to three weeks before an applicant will see money deposited into their checking account. It is unknown when the expanded stimulus benefits will be available.
Can I get Unemployment if I Receive Social Security?
The unemployment office says receiving Social Security does not count against or reduce unemployment benefits.
See the latest information from the Utah Coronavirus Task Force here.
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How Do I Prevent It?
The CDC has some simple recommendations, most of which are the same for preventing other respiratory illnesses or the flu:
- Avoid close contact with people who may be sick
- Avoid touching your face
- Stay home when you are sick
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Always wash your hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
The CDC does not recommend wearing a face mask respirator to protect yourself from coronavirus unless a healthcare professional recommends it.
How To Get Help
If you’re worried you may have COVID-19, you can contact the Utah Coronavirus Information Line at 1-800-456-7707 to speak to trained healthcare professionals. You can also use telehealth services through your healthcare providers.
If you see evidence of PRICE GOUGING, the Utah Attorney General’s Office wants you to report it. Common items in question include toilet paper, water, hand sanitizer, certain household cleaners, and even cold medicine and baby formula. Authorities are asking anyone who sees price gouging to report it to the Utah Division of Consumer Protection at 801-530-6601 or 800-721-7233. The division can also be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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