2020 | Coronavirus

Initial unemployment claims skyrocket 4,717% in Montgomery

In March, more than 13,700 filed for benefits for first time

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Initial unemployment claims shot up to 9,394 in Montgomery County this week — a 4,717% increase since the first week of March, when there were 195 claims.

The number of initial claims — people filing for the first time — also more than doubled from last week, when there were 3,941 from the county.

There were at least 13,765 initial claims from Montgomery in March — plus the last two days of the month, for which figures have not been released yet.

During the second week of March, there were 245 initial claims from Montgomery.

The state’s labor department has stated on its website and social media accounts that it is seeing an “unprecedented” number of people filing for unemployment benefits.

In March, the state received at least 132,506 initial claims, according to the Maryland Department of Labor — again, not counting the last two days of the month.

In this past week, it received 84,230 initial claims. It received 42,334 during the third week of March alone, which coincided with Gov. Larry Hogan’s orders for bars and restaurants to shut down, except for takeout service and delivery.

Compared to the other counties in the state, Montgomery had the fourth highest number of initial unemployment claims for March, behind Baltimore County with 21,004, Baltimore City with 15,201, and Anne Arundel with 13,927.

The county with the lowest number of initial claims is Kent County with 378.

Fallon Pearre, a spokeswoman for the state’s labor department, told Bethesda Beat on March 19 that on a normal Monday, the department received about 1,100 claims for the entire state.

The department has had to extend its call center hours and increase its network bandwidth to keep up with the increased phone calls and traffic on its website.

On Wednesday, the department again extended its call center hours to 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays.

In its announcement on Tuesday of the new hours, the department asked people to file claims on the first three days of the week according to the first letter of their last names: A-F for Mondays, G-N for Tuesdays, and O-Z on Wednesdays.

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich told Bethesda Beat on Tuesday evening that it’s vital for anyone who was furloughed or laid off to file for unemployment benefits.

There is no wait for eligibility.

Although unemployment numbers have skyrocketed to historic levels, Elrich said he believes there are still people who aren’t aware that they can collect unemployment, such as Uber drivers.

“What’s missing out of all this is the idea that — I personally think and I know other people would — there has to be forgiveness for people who aren’t working and aren’t able to pay rent,” he said. “It’s kind of crazy that we expect individuals to take a hit. … At the end of the day, the only people who are left standing are all the banks who apparently still want their income.”

Briana Adhikusuma can be reached at briana.adhikusuma@bethesdamagazine.com.