christine stuart / ctnewsjunkie

WETHERSFIELD, CT – The Connecticut Department of Labor is no longer giving out the number of unemployment claims publicly, but that’s not because the U.S. Department of Labor asked them to refrain – it’s because the numbers wouldn’t be accurate.

Connecticut has seen more than 100,000 unemployment claims filed since March 13, but it will no longer give out daily numbers.

Labor Commissioner Kurt Westby said the level of claims that have been submitted is about 20 times the average, but he declined to give a specific number.

“We have new claims coming in and we also have folks who are filing duplicate claims,” Westby said. “So those numbers are becoming mixed so it’s hard to say.”

“I can’t give you an exact figure,” he added.

He said giving out daily numbers might allow “speculators to speculate on the stock market.”

He said DOL is trying to put out general numbers and point to the larger region.

The time it takes to receive benefits is also expected to grow.

It might have taken up to three days to receive a benefit before last week. The wait time has increased to three weeks and is expected to get longer.

“Please know we are getting an unbelievable amount of volume,” Westby said. “So just know our customers are able to use our automation.”

He said the department also knows there are a number of customers who need additional assistance “that we just can’t provide at this time.”

“We are handling the masses as best we can,” Westby said.

First-time filers, and even those who are familiar with the system, have been frustrated.

The online system for those who were laid off and file weekly claims —most of whom were in the system before the coronovirus outbreak—is only open 12 hours per day. Others, including those who may have been laid off temporarily, have been unable to verify that their claim was submitted.

Westby said a filer should get an email notification if they filed the claim successfully. There is no phone number for people to call and the offices are closed to the public due to the nature of the virus.

Connecticut Department of Labor gives an update on the current situation regarding COVID-19.

Posted by CTNewsJunkie on Wednesday, March 25, 2020

At least one person at the Department of Labor has tested positive for COVID-19. That person did not work in the unemployment insurance division.

Westby said they’re bringing back retirees and offering overtime as much as possible to catch up on processing. Just three weeks ago, there were 20 people assisting individuals with unemployment claims, but they’ve been able to increase that by moving personnel and calling back retirees.

They’re up to about 70 at this point. At the height of the Great Recession, they had 130 employees processing claims.

Deputy Commissioner Daryle Dudzinski said they’ve never experienced anything like this. The state received over six months’ worth of unemployment claims in one week.

“We are behind. We are at least three weeks behind at this point,” Dudzinski said. “So the automation has to be reviewed.”

The state’s unemployment claim system is still working on a computer language called COBOL, which was designed in 1959.

Solvency

The state’s unemployment trust fund has about $650 million in it at the moment. Westby anticipates it will be depleted in two or three months, but that’s only an estimate.

“We will be filing for a federal loan to cover,” Westby said.

Following the Great Recession, Connecticut borrowed about $575 million from the federal government in order to keep the unemployment fund solvent.

The federal government is looking to help out, but it’s unclear how quickly the funds will be available.

Congress is still debating a package that would allow self-employed individuals to file for unemployment claims. Pre-existing regulations bar entrepreneurs and self-employed individuals from claiming jobless benefits in Connecticut.

Gov. Ned Lamont said Tuesday that he hopes the federal government will get rid of that regulation and allow entrepreneurs to file for unemployment.

“I am going to do it myself, if we have to do it here, [but] I hope the federal government steps up and does the right thing,” Lamont said.