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Unemployment numbers at record high

At the state and national level, unemployment claims reached a record high this week, with 3.3 million Americans out of jobs amidst the COVID-19 outbreak.

In just 10 days, from March 16-26, the North Carolina Division of Employment Security reported more than 210,000 unemployment claims statewide, with more than 184,000 related to COVID-19. On March 25 alone, the state received 25,370 virus-related claims.

At the Beaufort County N.C. Works Career Center, the building is closed to the public, but the staff remains hard at work to help local residents who have been laid off or had their hours reduced.

“We’re fielding call after call for affected people locally, trying to help them file unemployment claims,” N.C. Works Career Center Manager Wesley Watson said. “A huge number of people are feeling the stress of being out of work at this point.”

FILING FOR UNEMPLOYMENT

Prior to the outbreak, NCDES processed an average of 3,000 unemployment claims each week for the state. With the influx of phone calls and web traffic at the NCDES website, however, that system has quickly become overwhelmed, leaving frustrations among those looking for help.

“Applying for unemployment insurance benefits, patience is key,” Watson said. “We’re seeing bigger numbers now than we ever have. The website and the phone line are being inundated with calls, and it’s bottlenecking pretty bad.”

Watson encouraged those experiencing issues to call the local N.C. Works Career Center, where staff members are compiling information to help expedite the process.

To file for unemployment insurance, visit des.nc.gov or call 888-737-0259. Because of high call volume, there may be long wait times. Assistance is also available locally at the Beaufort County N.C. Works Career Center at 252-940-0900 or by emailing NCWorks.0520@nccommerce.com.

To file a claim, one needs their Social Security number, information about their most recent job and pay, work history for the last two years and bank routing and account information for direct deposit.

Once a claim is filed, employers have 10 days to respond to DES. Employers can also file collective unemployment claims on behalf of their staff. If there are no issues with the claim, payments usually arrive within 14 days.

In order to maintain payments, applicants have to complete a weekly series of yes/no certification questions either online or by calling 888-372-3453 if they don’t have internet access.

SEEKING EMPLOYMENT

As restaurants, salons and other businesses shut down under executive orders from North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, others are still hiring. For the most part, Watson says these are large retailers and other service providers considered essential during a time of emergency.

“There are some major retailers looking to hire people — Dollar General, Walmart — they’re looking at bringing lots of people on,” Watson said. “I would definitely keep an eye on that. The places that are providing essential services, mainly around grocery and food service, there seems to be need in that industry at the moment.”

RESOURCES AVAILABLE

The following resources are available for more information about unemployment insurance, job postings and other COVID-19 issues:

  • NC 211 — NC 211 offers access to free and confidential crisis and emergency counseling, disaster assistance, food, health care and insurance assistance, stable housing and utilities payment assistance, employment services, veterans services and childcare and family services. Trained specialists listen, identify underlying problems and connect people with resources and services in their community.
  • Workforce development sites — Job postings and resources for employers are updated regularly at ncworks.gov and riverseastwdb.org.
  • Chamber of Commerce websites — Business information and mailing lists can be found at wbcchamber.com.
  • County and municipal websites — For local communication and important updates, visit websites such as co.beaufort.nc.us, www.washingtonnc.gov, townofbelhaven.com.