RALEIGH, N.C. — State officials are taking steps to handle an unprecidented surge in the number of unemployed North Carolinians.
The North Carolina Division of Employment Security is used to getting about 3,000 unemployment insurance assistance claims a week.
Since March 16, 370,000 North Carolinians have filed.
From hiring and contracting to strengthening the office’s technology, NCDES is working to make sure they are ready to handle this massive influx.
DES plans to hire 50 new staff, contract an additional 200-person call center and add 100 staff to the Division of Workforce Solutions Career Centers.
This means the state will have more than 850 people working to process unemployment claims and get payments out the door.
The state is also adding computer servers, buying more than 500 new computers and other equipment for employees working from the office and from home and doubling their printing and mail capacity.
“The Division of Employment Security understands that for people who have lost their jobs, the assistance can’t get there soon enough,” said Lockhart Taylor, assistant secretary for DES. “We are taking immediate action to increase our capacity in the face of this historic challenge and be there for the North Carolinians who need our help.”
DES has sent out more than $10 million in unemployment benefits related to the coronavirus since April 3, and they expect that number to grow exponentially.
DES reminds those filing for unemployment that it takes about 14 days from the time a person files to receive their first payment.
Gov. Roy Cooper authorized the office to implement three new federal unemployment programs, including an additional $600 in weekly benefits, up to 13 additional weeks of benefits and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance means people who are not usually eligible for unemployment benefits, like self-employed workers or independent contractors, can get the help they need.
However, DES is still waiting on final guidance from the U.S> Department of Labor to make that federal assistance available.
Individuals can file for unemployment benefits online at des.nc.gov. Those who have internet access are encouraged to check the website for updates and answers to their questions before calling the customer call center. People without internet access should call (888) 737-0259 for assistance.
The most up-to-date information about eligibility and how to apply for benefits can be found on the Division of Employment Security website at des.nc.gov.