COVID-19 causes spike in Mississippi unemployment claims

Updated: Mar. 23, 2020 at 11:02 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The coronavirus has not only taken a serious toll on people’s health, but is also taking a hit on American’s source of income.

Unemployment rates across the country have skyrocketed since the outbreak.

The Mississippi Department of Employment Security tells 3 On Your Side that they are working as hard as possible to get claims processed, but it’s been overwhelming.

They also reveal that they have seen a dramatic spike in unemployment claims from Mississippians.

“Our claim load has gone up overnight, almost within a week or so. We do not know how long this will last. We went from business as usual, to a very low claims workload, to the claims workload growing exponentially,” said Jackie Turner, Executive Director of Miss. Department of Employment Security.

With their phones ringing off the hook, an influx of new employment claims has caused system issues.

“Our phones are at their maximum capacity," Turner said. "We are working to add additional phone lines. hiring staff, training staff to assist us with this tremendous claim load.”

Not only that, they even adjusted their hours of operation from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week.

“We have pulled everyone who is nonessential staff in other areas to help out with the workload.”

Because of all the applicants, Timothy Rush, the Director of Reemployment Assistance, suggests filing a claim online.

“Anything you can do to avoid the phone lines will be helpful,” he said.

If you prefer calling, try doing so after peak hours when it is easier to access the system.

“For those that do need to speak with us, please be patient and we will speak with you eventually!” he said.

MDES is thinking outside of the box and of ways to better serve Mississippians.

“We are starting to take claims old school and take paper claims. Within the next day we will have an additional plan to serve the public,” Turner said.

With a little help from the governor, some of the requirements have even been relaxed.

“One of the things we did with the governor’s approval suspend or relax the work search requirement so individuals won’t have to look for work as long as there job is intact,” Rush said.

Governor Reeves signed the executive order on Saturday for the work search waiver.

Head over to the MDES website and click on the F&Q tab for more.

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