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Unemployment ‘tsunami’

With many businesses shut down or altering hours because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the nation saw a record number of 6.6 million unemployment claims in March.

In Ohio, in just two weeks, the number of unemployment claims were 468,414, with 272,117 for the week ending March 28, up 84,328 from the prior week’s record high of 187,789.

The Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services put out a statement about the situation, calling the numbers of claims similar to a tsunami.

“To put that in perspective, 364,603 initial jobless claims were filed during the entire year in 2019,” the statement read. “Over these last two weeks, we have issued unemployment compensation payments totaling more than $45 million to more than 108,000 claimants.”

Unemployment claims in Lawrence County, Ohio • March 7, 14, and 21

For three weeks of March for Lawrence County, the numbers were 15 for the week of March 7, 13 for the week of March 14 and then surged to 312 for the week of March 21. Numbers for the week ending March 28 were not available.

ODJF has increased the number of hours and days the call centers are open to deal with all the claims and is urging people to file their claims online, if possible, at unemployment.ohio.gov.

“Each claim is important to us, and we recognize the hardship that the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on many Ohio families,” the statement read. “We have been working around the clock to streamline performance and boost capacity by adding servers so the online claims system can handle the unprecedented influx of claims, which has affected processing times.”

To that end, more than 300 ODJFS employees have been reassigned to assist with call volume to increase the agencies service capabilities.

“It’s important to keep in mind that during previous economic downturns, claims came in waves as the recession worsened and businesses closed gradually, over time,” the statement read. “In this case, the claims came in all at once and created a tsunami. Such a large number of claims in a short period of time would tax any online system, especially one that is 16 years old.”

A list of places to get help with unemployment cases includes:

• General Information: jfs.ohio.gov/unemp_comp_faq/index.stm

• Coronavirus-Specific Information: jfs.ohio.gov/ouio/CoronavirusAndUI.stm

• Expanded Call Center Hours: Those without internet access or who need help with PIN resets can call 1-877-644-6562 (OHIO-JOB) from 7 a.m.– 7 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. on Saturdays and 9 a.m.–1 p.m. on Sundays.

• Coronavirus-Related Claims: Workers who lose their jobs as a result of the coronavirus can enter the mass-layoff number 2000180 on their applications. However, if affected individuals have already submitted claims without this number, they do not need to add it.

• Mass-layoff notices are posted at jfs.ohio.gov/warn/current.stm.