Since the COVID-19 crisis began, the online benefits system has taken more than 355,000 claims for unemployment benefits, Assistant Secretary of the Division of Employment Security Lockhart Taylor said Thursday.
“To put that in perspective that averages to almost 1,000 claims, an hour for 24 hours a day for the last 14 days,” Taylor explained during an afternoon press conference. “So far this week, we have paid $8.2 million to those who have filed claims, identifying COVID as the reason for separation. That number is going to increase exponentially in the coming days.”
Taylor added that it will take up to two weeks before an applicant will receive their first benefit payment.
He said that they know that a lot of people have had problems accessing the system, or getting through on the phones, and that is unacceptable.
“We’ve taken immediate action in the face of this historic challenge,” he said. The division is bringing on 350 people to help individuals and businesses, to respond to claims and to file claims and more staff will be added as possible. The existing phone system is being modified to improve capacity and quality and made upgrades to improve the stability of the system.
Taylor reviewed the governor’s authorization Saturday to implement new federal unemployment programs.
“The first provides an additional $600 in weekly benefits. The second provides up to 13 additional weeks of benefits for those who have exhausted their claim. The third is called the pandemic unemployment assistance, which is an assistance for individuals who are traditionally not eligible for state unemployment benefits, such as self-employed workers and independent contractors,” he said. “I know people are anxious to start getting their benefits. Right now we are awaiting final guidance from the US Department of Labor, since we administer this program on behalf of the federal government. So we can program our existing systems to make the make these benefits and the application process available to those in need.”
Frequently asked questions and information related to COVID-19 unemployment insurance for individuals can be found here.
The state is reporting 1,837 positive cases of COVID-19 in 83 counties as of Thursday morning, Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human services said during the press conference that afternoon.
She said that of these cases 9% are in people ages 18 to 24; 42% in ages 25 to 49; 27% in ages 50 to 64; and 20% in ages 65 and older. There are 184 hospitalizations and the state has had 16 deaths. More than 28,000 tests statewide have been completed.
As of Thursday afternoon, Perquimans, Chowan and Gates counties are reporting one positive case; two in Currituck and Pamlico counties; three in Dare County; four in Pasquotank and Hertford counties; six in Craven; six cases and one fatality in Bertie County; nine in Onslow County and one fatality; 15 in Carteret County; 22 in Brunswick County; and 39 in New Hanover County.
Cohen mentioned that the COVID-19 dashboard now includes more data such as information on available hospital beds, number of ventilators, Strategic National Stockpile requests and demographic information about cases and deaths in the state. She said that they will continue to add data. On Thursday, data on number of outbreaks in congregate settings, like nursing homes, adult care homes and correctional facilities, was added.
She reminded North Carolinians how important it is to stay home in order to save lives.