Roughly 20% of Delaware's workforce is currently out of work.
"We continue to see a decline in the number of claims being filed. For the week ending May 9, we saw 5,197 initial claims for unemployment benefits," said Director for the Division of Unemployment Insurance Darryl Scott. "Over the last eight weeks, however, it's been unprecedented, with more than 95,000 claims that have been filed...that's the equivalent of what we processed over the last 35 months--nearly three years of claim volume in a period of eight weeks."
For eight weeks, Delaware's initial unemployment claims broke down on a week-by-week basis as:
- March 15 - 21: Initial Claims - 10,720
- March 22 - 28: Initial Claims - 18,987
- March 29 - April 4: Initial Claims - 18,863
- April 5 - April 11: Initial Claims - 13,258
- April 12 - April 18: Initial Claims - 9,294
- April 19 - April 25: Initial Claims - 7,754
- April 26 - May 2: Initial Claims - 6,183
- May 3 - May 9: Initial claims - 5,197
But many of those initial claims continue to file, to the tune of $188 million dollars in assistance provided in that time period--$109 million of which was provided directly from the federal government.
"In the last week alone, we've paid $45 million, almost $46 million in benefits," Scott said. "And as I've shared with you in the past, last year for all of 2018, we paid out $59 million. So, the assistance that Delawareans are receiving is significant."
Scott said again that the system handling new expanded qualifications for who may receive unemployment benefits is still scheduled to launch the week of May 11th as planned, currently with a target date of Saturday, May 16th, and a significant portion of the 95,000 individuals who have applied for assistance so far have been flagged as possibly eligible under the new system. He also again stessed the need for those who would not have qualified previously to apply for normal unemployment benefits first, so they are denied and bumped to the new system.
"We've identified more than 14,000 that may qualify who are pending that kind of unemployment assistance," he said. "The other part about launching that new system is that it provides us the ability to accept weekly certifications from when they first were impacted. So if a small business was impacted back to March 15, they'll be able to certify as they submit their claim for all those weeks forward. And as we approve the claim, we'll be making the payments for all those weeks, potentially at one time. And so if people have had to wait--we understand they've had to wait, there's an impact--but the new system functionality should allow us as we review and approve and pay claims is that we're not going to be paying a week at a time. The first payment should cover a number of weeks."
With their new systems in place, he said upgraded infrastructure, expanded staffing, and overall capacity improvements have allowed them to handle a greater number of claims as users flood their systems.
"Before the pandemic began, we had about 5,600 people collecting unemployment benefits," Scott said. "In the past week, there was over 57,000. And I think we had nearly 50,000 of those individuals certify on Sunday or Monday. So the systems have been upgraded to handle that increased capacity and over the last several weeks, the systems have performed well."
As Governor John Carney begins to lift some of the mandatory closures and restrictions he put in place at the beginning of the pandemic, and some jobs start returning, Scott said he knows there was a lag in unemployment assistance as they upgraded their system to handle volume, and those still awaiting a response should still receive payment for the dates they were unemployed.
"For individuals whose claims are in process that may return to work, we will be making a determination on their claim based on when they filed, and the weeks that they filed," he said. "So if somebody, again, has submitted a claim at the end of March and we're still working through approval, and we approve it, we're able to pay it from the day they filed to the day to the day that they resumed working."