Unemployment claims shatter records

DOVER — Delaware saw 10,790 unemployment claims for the week of March 15-21, shattering the record for any month over the past three decades.

According to data from the Delaware Department of Labor, there were 2,384 claims just one month ago.

January 2002 previously held the mark for a single month, with 9,632 claims. The high during the Great Recession was 8,948 in January 2009.

The federal government reported Thursday 3.3 million claims were filed for the same week period, an increase of more than tenfold over the prior week and a new record.

Delaware’s official numbers for the whole month won’t be released for several weeks, but the snapshots haven’t been pretty.

While Gov. John Carney this week ordered non-essential businesses to close, unemployment claims were already skyrocketing: More were submitted on March 16, 17 and 18 than in any month over the past 30 years.

The state has loosened rules around unemployment benefits due to the crisis, seeking to offer help to individuals are impacted by the coronavirus.

“Governor Carney is acutely aware that this is an extremely difficult time financially for many Delawareans,” spokesman Jonathan Starkey wrote in a text message. “That’s why he has expanded access to unemployment benefits, and offered new state assistance to help keep small businesses going through this time.

“He has suspended foreclosures, evictions and utility shut offs. The Governor also has been in consistent contact with Delaware’s local leaders, congressional delegation and other federal partners, advocating for the resources Delaware will need to get through this.”

Under the new guidelines, employees of a business that must shut down or cut back because of the virus or the state of emergency can receive benefits, as can people ordered to quarantine because of possible exposure to COVID-19. Also eligible for the time being are those forced to quit or take unpaid leave from their jobs to care for children due to the emergency closure of schools or for a loved one who has the virus.

Weekly work search requirements are waived for those impacted by the virus.

Part-time workers may be able to qualify.

Workers can file for benefits at ui.delawareworks.com, and questions can be emailed to uiclaims@delaware.gov.

Employers are encouraged to register to provide electronic responses to the department at oes.delawareworks.com. Any employer laying off at least 25 employees should notify the agency by emailing uiclaims@delaware.gov.

Companies can apply for loans through the federal Small Business Administration at http://sba.gov/disaster, and businesses in the hospitality field can seek state relief. Contact the Division of Small Business with questions by emailing business@delaware.gov or visiting www.delbiz.com.

Just over three-quarters of business owners who responded to a March 20 survey by the National Federation of Independent Business said their companies have been negatively impacted by the virus. Sixty-eight percent said they were very concerned about it, more than quadruple the number that said the same just 10 days earlier.

Still, at least a few industries appear to be weathering the storm, especially those related to food production and sales.

Lidl, which recently opened a location in Dover, announced this week it will hire up to 1,000 temporary employees for at least two months and offer them at no cost medical benefits related to COVID-19. The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, meanwhile, said Thursday employees at the Kraft Heinz plant who are mandated to quarantine will receive short-term disability benefits with waived waiting periods, waiver of co-pays for coronavirus medical care and a $100 weekly child care subsidy in districts where schools have closed.

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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