Unemployment claims explode in Indiana as businesses retrench during pandemic

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb on Thursday said the state has received 22,500 unemployment claims in a three-day period this week compared with only 3,100 during the same week a year ago.

The claims are being driven by layoffs at businesses that have reduced or shut down operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other states are experiencing the same trend. Ohio, for example, received nearly 78,000 claims for unemployment compensation in three days this week, compared with only 5,430 during the entire previous week.

Holcomb said the state would “interpret Indiana’s unemployment laws to the broadest extent possible to cover Hoosiers who are out of work because of COVID-19.” He offered some possible steps:

— Benefits will be paid to individuals who file their initial unemployment claims late.

— The Department of Workforce Development will allow individuals to continue to accrue unemployment eligibility if they take work leave because of COVID-19.

— The Department of Workforce Development will seek federal authorization to provide unemployment benefits for those who are not otherwise eligible for unemployment, such individuals who have recently started a job.

— For employers, DWD will not assess certain experience rate penalties because of employees who receive unemployment benefits because of COVID-19.

Mike Hicks, director of Ball State’s Center for Business and Economic Research, estimated that mass layoffs caused by social distancing will cause unemployment to jump from 3.5% to 10.5% nationally and 10% in Indiana within 45 days.

Within 90 days, he said in a report, the economic downturn caused by governmental efforts to mitigate COVID-19 will cause unemployment to rise to 14.6% nationally and 14.5% in Indiana.

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