The Department of Labor said in its weekly briefing during the coronavirus crisis that it has received more than 500,000 unemployment claims in just two months.
The department said more than 400,000 of those have been processed, or are in process. The agency added that it still has about a one week delay getting applications into processing.
Max Pieper of North Haven, who was working at an auto dealership until the coronavirus pandemic hit applied for unemployment but did not get payments for weeks, until he finally got through on the DOL helpline.
“I was on the phone for say, maybe a week or two, just calling waiting, calling waiting…once I spoke with the Department of Labor employees they, they were beyond helpful,” Pieper said.
Mansfield dance studio owner Mia Pomerenke, however, has not been as lucky trying to get the benefits being offered for the first time to the self-employed.
“You’re constantly going checking, ‘oh maybe something went through, maybe I’m not at a standstill anymore’ but unfortunately that hasn’t been the case.”
Pomerenke has reached out to her state legislator for assistance. The DOL said more help is on the way:
- the general information line will go from 25 people to about 40.
- there are currently three people answering questions about the self-employed, but that will rise to 15
- others are being hired to help with the soon to roll out federal program extending unemployment benefits for an additional 13 weeks
“Some of them are retirees that have come back that have a limited amount of time to be with us, some of them are people that we’ve rearranged within the agency, some of them are assisting us from other agencies," CT DOL Deputy Commissioner Dante Bartolomeo explained.
The DOL said this should help through the end of the year, but a total number of people answering phones and emails has remained elusive. The general information lines are going to be taken down once the state job centers that help process unemployment claims in person can safely reopen. There has been no firm date established when that will happen.