State has paid more than 1.7M unemployment claims since beginning of April

Since the beginning of April, the state has paid out nearly $1 billion in federal and state unemployment claims, Indiana Department of Workforce Development Commissioner Fred Payne said Thursday.

To date, $986 million in claims have been made to unemployed Hoosiers.

In April, the state made 1.4 million unemployment insurance payments, a record number, for a total of $749 million, Payne said during the governor’s daily press conference. So far in May, the state has made 313,000 payments totaling $237 million.

Unemployment claims in Indiana have been trending downward since they peaked in March. In the week ended May 2, 43,277 people filed initial unemployment claims. That’s down from 55,774 the previous week. Prior to the pandemic, the state was typically seeing fewer than 3,000 claims per week.

When asked whether the state will need to borrow money from the federal government to cover unemployment benefits, Payne told reporters the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund currently has about $600 million in it and the department is closely monitoring those funds.

During the Great Recession, many states, including Indiana, had to borrow funds from the federal government in the forms of Title XII loans. The trust is funded by employers who pay into it based on employee wages.

Payne also said Thursday that the department’s efficiency has improved but call centers remain busy fielding questions from unemployed Hoosiers.

The DWD’s call center fielded more than 1.3 million calls in April. In May, there have been about 153,000.

Payne warned the wait time is still high, but callback efficiency is improving. The department recently hired 160 additional staff members.

“We’re still nowhere close to where we want to be, and we’re still nowhere close to claimants actually feeling that positive trend. We’re encouraged that trend will continue,” he said.

For Hoosiers with limited work history, independent contractors and self-employed who are still waiting for the pandemic unemployment assistance granted to them by the federal Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act, payments will begin being made tomorrow, Payne said.

So far, more than 75,000 people have applied for the benefit, which will be paid by funding from the federal government.

Also tomorrow, federal benefits that cover 13 extra weeks of unemployment will start to be paid out.

“So, we’ve successfully implemented three of the federal programs required under the federal CARES act, and we continue to make sure we’re providing services to you, and we want to make sure we continue to do them better every day,” he said.

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