California unemployment claims continue climbing even with businesses reopening

Even with California loosening its stay at home order and more residents returning to work, unemployment claims continue to climb.
Even with California loosening its stay at home order and more residents returning to work, unemployment claims continue to climb in the state.

Last week, 258,000 claims were filed in California - more applications than any other state.

"A perfect storm," said Loree Levy with the California Employment Development Department.

"We were at record low unemployment with very low levels of staff when this first hit. We all the sudden had to get 8,000 people in the department teleworking all at the same time. And then, a demand came in by the likes with which we had never seen."

In the last 12 weeks, 5.1 million people have filed for unemployment in California, which is about 26% of the state's workforce, according to data from the Department of Labor. Claims totaling $26 billion have been paid.

"We just launched the extensions for those who run out of all available benefits on their regular unemployment insurance program," Levy said. "That launched last week. And we continue to process those unemployment claims every day. There could be perhaps another extension of benefits that comes out of the Heroes Act."

The Heroes Act legislation has made it through the House of Representatives, but faces scrutiny in the Senate. If it passes, it's unlikely that would happen before the end of next month. Although some Californians continue to run into issues receiving their benefits or the correct amount, the office says they've processed 6 million claims and 4 million people are receiving benefits.

"We're grateful. We've been able to help so many millions of Californians and we know there's still a lot of work to do and that's evolving every day," said Levy.

The EDD is hiring 3,000 additional staff to help with the increased workload due to the pandemic.
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