Experts answer your questions about unemployment

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Thousands of northeast Indiana workers have lost their jobs amid the coronavirus outbreak, according to “eye-popping” figures released Tuesday.

According to Department of Workforce Development unemployment insurance reports released Tuesday, the total number of claims statewide more than doubled last week, going from 53,608 the previous week to 120,331 last week for a total of first-time claims 173,939 in the two-week period.

Locally, Allen County had 9,950 initial claims last week, a 179.4% increase from the week before of 3,561. Noble County recorded 2,328 initial claims, up from 300 the week before. DeKalb County added 1,366 new claims, up from 382 the week before, and Huntington County registered 1,180 initial claims last week compared to 304 the week prior.

According to Rick Farrant with Northeast Indiana Works, at least 12,630 manufacturing workers in northeast Indiana have been laid off.

Rachel Blakeman, director of Purdue Fort Wayne’s Community Research Institute, called the numbers “clearly unprecedented.”

“If we thought the first week’s numbers were high, it’s even more eye-popping this week,” said Blakeman. “The scope of the public-health closures and diminished consumer spending is coming into focus at this point. The scale is clearly unprecedented.”

And the layoffs aren’t done. Farrant said the numbers will likely continue to grow, and Blakeman explained that researchers are starting to see significant employment claims in counties that have more manufacturing presence like Adams, Elkhart, Noble and LaGrange counties.

Many of you have questions regarding unemployment and we tried to get the answers. One of the most asked questions is the error on the website.

“I hate to mention it, but patience,” said Farrant. “The state has been socked with this avalanche of filings. I know that’s not a great deal of comfort but everyone is in the same boat.”

Blakeman told WANE 15 that the problem is the lack of administrative on the back end for support.

“I know it’s frustrating like gosh can the state just get their stuff together,” said Blakeman “But they are waiting for guidance from the federal government so it’s really an exercise of patience.”

Many people who are self- employed wondered what will they be able to qualify for, if they were denied state insurance.

“The rules have all changed, what has come across with the CARES Act has to be implemented at the state and local level,” said Blackmen. “We are building a whole new system in real-time to respond to the conditions.”

For those were laid off due to the pandemic, should they still seek work during this time?

“I know where that question is from and I understand it,” said Farrant. “I think there are a lot of people wondering when we get back to normalcy is the job that they had still going to be there and nobody knows.”

Blakeman said people who are currently unemployed and funds are low, the government has safeguards to give people breathing room.

“Eviction proceedings have been suspended, utilities aren’t being turned off, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to pay your utilities that doesn’t mean you get a free month of rent,” said Blakeman. “But there are some provisions being made by officials.”

Retailers, too, are laying off workers, which Blakeman said should also add to the issue.

“We don’t have industry-specific information about the claimants, but the effects of sheltering in place must be widespread with these numbers,” said Blakeman. “We can anticipate more first-time claims going forward as employers who had initially furloughed workers laid them off this week, such as Macy’s and Kohl’s.”

Farrant said WorkOne Northeast career centers continue to get a steady stream of inquiries about how to file for unemployment benefits. Those in need of unemployment insurance should visit the Indiana Department of Workforce Development unemployment site at www.unemployment.in.gov to file.

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