Backlog of unemployment claims cleared, but there is still a record number of initial claims

Posted at 1:50 PM, Jul 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-22 15:51:09-04

BOISE, Idaho — The Idaho Department of Labor announced today that 42,000 unemployment insurance claims that have been pending as of June 6 have been cleared. Unemployment staff are still working, however, on processing the high volume of initial claims being filed.

The Department said in a news release that a higher percentage of new claims are being filed each week than ever before. During 2009 at the height of the Great Recession, around 3,800 claims were filed each week on average. Now, the four-week average is around 5,000 claims.

Since Governor Little issued a state of emergency declaration in March, staff from other areas of the agency have pitched in to help with the workload. The Idaho Department of Labor plans to hire at least 10 more adjudicators and 10 more claim specialists to continue processing claims, as those staff members have gone back to their regular duties.

The Labor Department is also working to simplify processes.

“We are looking at ways to make the questions easier for claimants to answer and understand as well as automate more processes to make the turnaround faster,” said Jani Revier, Labor Director.

Total benefit payments attributed to layoffs due to COVID-19 reached $640 million as of July 11, according to the Labor Department. Unemployment insurance regular benefits are around $155 million of the total, with Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits at $11.3 million, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits at $35.7 million and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation payments at $438 million.

The Labor Department says issues that remain now are more complicated, like working to prevent identity theft, and additional information from claimants or previous employers is needed.