Connecticut Labor Commissioner Kurt Westby announced Wednesday that his department has now received a million applications for unemployment since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve reached a milestone no one wanted to get to,” Westby said.
Westby said to put the numbers in perspective, it means that “over the past seven months we’ve received more applications than we usually get in eight years.” That means, if there were no duplicates, 1 out of every 4 Connecticut residents has applied for unemployment at some point during the pandemic. The department can’t separate out duplicate applications in its numbers so it’s unclear exactly how many applications correspond with actual people.
The department, which struggled at the beginning of the pandemic to get the applications processed within six weeks at the height of the pandemic, is now processing applications within one to three days.
The Connecticut Department of Labor has paid out $5.2 billion in unemployment compensation across available programs. It also has applications in to the federal government to borrow $550 million through the year’s end to bolster the trust fund it uses to pay out benefits, having tapped $370 million in federal loans to date.
An estimated 232,000 people are currently receiving benefits and 1,007,500 applications have been received since March 13 when Gov. Ned Lamont declared the public health emergency.
As of October 4, unemployment compensation beneficiaries could claim an extra $18 a week, pushing to $667 the maximum amount they can claim, which is typically half of their average pay prior to losing a job or income stream if self-employed. Entering August, a $600 weekly bonus that had been authorized under the CARES Act expired.
Congress is deadlocked on a new aid package.
Meanwhile, the DOL has also urged beneficiaries to monitor their accounts to make sure their direct deposits continue to reach their bank accounts.
The agency and law enforcement are investigating claims that individuals saw their deposits over the past few weeks disappear because unbeknownst to them, their bank information had been changed.
“With the implementation of multiple federal unemployment programs launched in response to the pandemic, labor agencies across the country are seeing an uptick in criminal activity around unemployment claims. Cyber security experts recommend regular account maintenance to preserve the integrity and security of your personal information,” Westby said.