Coronavirus layoffs spark surge in state jobless claims

Full Screen
1 / 4

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Unionized hospitality workers wait in line in a basement garage to apply for unemployment benefits at the Hospitality Training Academy Friday, March 13, 2020, in Los Angeles. Fearing a widespread health crisis, Californians moved broadly Friday to get in front of the spread of the coronavirus, shuttering schools that educate hundreds of thousands of students, urging the faithful to watch religious services online and postponing or scratching just about any event that could attract a big crowd. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – In Ohio, more than 48,000 people applied for jobless benefits during the first two days of this week. The tally during the same period the prior week: just 1,825.

In neighboring Pennsylvania, about 70,000 people sought unemployment aid in a single day — six times the total for the entire previous week.

Jobless claims are surging across the U.S. after government officials ordered millions of workers, students and shoppers to stay at home as a precaution against spreading the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease.

“We’ve been getting flooded with calls,” said John Dodds, director of the nonprofit Philadelphia Unemployment Project. “It's going to be a big mess, a double mess: illness and unemployment.”

The growing number of people filing for unemployment checks raises fresh questions about whether states have stockpiled enough money since the last recession to tide over idled workers until the crisis ends. Some fear the demand for help could outpace the states' ability to pay claims.

“Our unemployment insurance fund is getting hit pretty hard right now,” said Gov. Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island, where coronavirus-related jobless claims accelerated from zero to nearly 18,000 in barely one week.

Raimondo, a Democrat, said the state needs to start replenishing its fund and appealed for help from the federal government.

President Donald Trump's administration is proposing an economic stimulus package that could approach $1 trillion and include sending checks to Americans within a matter of weeks to help them pay for groceries, bills, mortgages and rent. The Senate gave final approval Wednesday to a separate bill that would inject $1 billion into state unemployment insurance programs.