Another 19,000 file for jobless benefits in New Hampshire

But problems still hamper state efforts to get checks out

Nhes LogoOver 19,000 more New Hampshire employees and business owners filed initial unemployment claims in the week ending April 18, about 6,000 more than the revised total released earlier and more than 300 times the number of initial weekly claims filed before the coronavirus infected New Hampshire’s and the national economy.

With the new claims and revisions, about 145,000 New Hampshire residents have filed initial claims in the five-week period starting in mid-March. If you add that to the 20,000 who were already collecting jobless benefits before the collapse, there has been more than an eight-fold increase in unemployment in that period.

The unemployment rate in March, which was based on surveys taken before the recession, was 2.6%, so it is likely that current levels will be greater than 10% and, more likely, over 15%.

This deluge of claims has overwhelmed the state Department of Employment Security, which has also had to update its computer system to include the federal enhanced benefit of $600 a week as well as enhanced eligibility under new state and federal rules to a number of groups, including business owners, for which the department had had no data on previous income.

After the department upgraded its computer system early last weekend, the first $600 checks – both current and catch-up – went out last week and should have been received Wednesday. But the department told the NH Union Leader the checks went out to about 50,000 individuals, and there were about 80,000 new claims by the end of March, so the new checks may not have reached everyone.

Indeed, a number of claimants told NH Business Review earlier this week that they have been waiting weeks to get their regular benefits, much less the federal enhancement. Some also said the payments received fell well short of the 60% income level promised under state law (a maximum of $427 a week).

Previously, the department acknowledged it had only paid about 70% of benefits owed to recipients – citing problems involved with accounting for the income of self-employed individuals and dealing with income for those from other states – because the federal system keeping track of those numbers had also crashed.

The department did not respond to questions about what was causing the current problem and if a recent upgrade fixed it.

The deluge of claims and keeping up with them is not limited to New Hampshire. Nationally, 4.4 million people filed new unemployment claims last week, bringing the five-week total to more than 26 million.

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