The number of unemployment insurance claims has spiked due to the number of people getting laid off in response to the pandemic, mostly in the leisure and hospitality industry, according to a special report by the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services released last week.
The week of March 9, 510 people filed claims but a week later, the number quadrupled to over 2,339 claims. Teton County saw the greatest jump in that time span: from just 11 claims up to 519. That doesn't include the many undocumented workers in that county, since they aren't eligible for unemployment.
Tyler Stockton is a spokesman for the agency and said the spike has led to long wait times for people who try to apply over the phone.
"Well, it's all hands-on deck," he said. "The Unemployment Insurance Division is working as hard they can. They've put in quite a bit of time on weekends and after hours. They've increased by almost doubled the size of the call desk for folks to call in. Yet we're still seeing long hold times on the phone."
Stockton said he expects many people are hoping to take advantage of the $2 trillion in stimulus funds passed by the federal government last week, which will add up to $600 dollars on top of the amount states are already paying to their unemployed. In Wyoming, the unemployed are paid between $36 and $508 a week, depending on their previous wages.
Plus, Stockton said, the new federal mandate will give unemployment to part timers and the self-employed. He's just not sure exactly when that'll all come through.
"We're waiting on that guidance from the Department of Labor. I'm hoping it will be soon. As soon as possible," he said. "There's a lot of people out there who are looking for help and the quicker we can get them help, the better off everybody will be."
Stockton said the best way to apply without long waits is online at their website.
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