‘It’s been crazy’: March unemployment numbers increase significantly, but aren’t yet reflected in local data | TheUnion.com
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‘It’s been crazy’: March unemployment numbers increase significantly, but aren’t yet reflected in local data

Sam Corey
Staff Writer

KNOW MORE

Help filing for unemployment

Alliance for Workforce Development website: http://www.afwd.org

Grass Valley Phone Number: 530-265-7088

Truckee Phone Number: 530-550-3015

Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday

Filing for unemployment benefits

Employment Development Department website: http://www.edd.ca.gov/Unemployment/UI_Online.htm

Finding a job

CalJobs: http://www.caljobs.ca.gov/vosnet/Default.aspx

Nortec Jobs: http://www.nortecjobs.org

By this time, you’ve probably seen the numbers.

During one week in March — between the 14 and 21 — unemployment numbers skyrocketed nationally from 282,000 claims to a record number 3.28 million, according to National Public Radio. For comparison, the most recent spike in unemployment numbers to then was in 2009 during the Great Recession, when 665,000 unemployment claims were filed.

Nationally, at week’s end on April 11, claims reached Great Depression levels of 22 million claims filed, according to Vox.

In California, by March 21, unemployment claims reached over 186,000, which about tripled in size from the week prior, according to CalMatters.

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Locally, a snapshot of unemployment numbers on March 12 in Nevada County shows 2,230 people unemployed, compared to 1,780 the month prior, according to data from the state’s Employment Development Department. While the numbers reflect an unemployment rate increase of 1%, they don’t say anything about what happened during the rest of the month, when the state issued a shelter-in-place order.

The unemployment numbers were released Friday.

“They don’t really reflect the entire situation yet,” said Luis Moreno, assistant director for the Alliance for Workforce Development, which helps workers in six northern Californian counties obtain unemployment insurance and other services.

Complete March unemployment numbers, in addition to data from April, will be reflected in the Employment Development Department’s May report, according to the department’s northern labor area market consultant Luis Alejo in an email.

But administrators helping local residents acquire unemployment insurance say the numbers in the northern region — as seen elsewhere — are through the roof.

“Traffic (for unemployment insurance) has gone up probably 300% to 400%,” said Moreno. “Every transcript comes to me. It’s been crazy.”

Demand for social services locally have also increased. According to Mali Dyck, assistant county executive officer, there’s been a surge of residents applying for Cal Fresh benefits, increasing from 40 per week prior to sheltering in place to 79 per week thereafter.

“MediCal applications have increased slightly in the last month, as well as compared to February,” Dyck said in an email, “but with Covered California open enrollment extended, it’s hard to determine if COVID-19 was the cause or if open enrollment is the reason.”

As of late March, government jobs in the county appeared to be more stable.

“The County of Nevada hasn’t laid off any employees,” wrote Steve Rose, Nevada County director of human resources. In fact, around that time, Rose said the county hired a few temporary employees to help with disinfecting public spaces, and are recruiting for a few open positions.

Those hires may not last long for the county, and western Nevada County’s two cities may have to begin making cuts, too, as many states and cities across the country are expected to fall heavily into debt due to lowered sales tax and income revenue, as well as skyrocketing unemployment claims.

“The city will be greatly impacted,” Grass Valley Mayor Lisa Swarthout has said, adding, “So we’re going to take a big hit.”

‘THE SYSTEM IS VERY ANTIQUATED’

With the rise in unemployment has come an increase in unemployment claims. And with an increase in claims, filing for unemployment — never an easy task — has become much harder, said Luis Moreno.

“Employment Development Department is almost impossible to get a hold of because all of the claims going in there,” he said, noting, “The system is very antiquated. I think as a whole they’re operating on a system that was created in the ‘60s and ‘70s.”

Californians are entitled to anywhere from $40 to $450 of weekly unemployment benefits. Except for undocumented persons and recent college graduates, those not working full-time — including part-time, gig economy or self-employed workers — qualify for benefits.

Many self-employed workers don’t know they qualify for benefits, said Moreno.

Importantly, it often takes anywhere from 14 to 21 days for self-employed individuals who applied for unemployment benefits to receive them, according to Moreno, basically because “it’s a catch up game the state has to do.”

In order to apply for unemployment insurance, people need a few things, including their birthdate, Social Security number, previous employer’s information, company name, supervisor’s name, the company’s address and phone number. The applicant also needs to know the last date they worked and the reason they are no longer working, their gross earnings in the last week they worked, and the same information for the employers they worked for in the last 18 months.

The process can be long and arduous, said Moreno, which makes things harder, not just for those laid off or furloughed, but also for administrators assisting them.

“It’s difficult to tell someone who’s struggling and in need of money to be patient,” said Moreno.

In order to meet rising demand, Newsom ordered the Employment Development Department to answer phone calls from applicants for 12 hours each day. For those needing help with their unemployment insurance claims, Moreno suggested people call his office.

“If anyone has a doubt, if anyone has a question, people should get on our chat feature,” he said.

The chat feature is at the bottom right of http://www.afwd.org.

While the unemployment rate has dramatically increased, Moreno said certain jobs, including those at grocery stores — like Costco and Safeway — and health care facilities are available.

To contact Staff Writer Sam Corey, email scorey@theunion.com or call 530-477-4219.


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