An executive order signed by Gov. Brad Little, temporarily easing some unemployment insurance eligibility requirements, has allowed the Idaho Department of Labor to increase the number of unemployment insurance claims being paid.
This and other measures have lowered pending claims from 42,000 to just over 20,000. The number of active individuals who had filed a claim but not yet received a payment dropped from more than 17,000 to 8,500 individuals as of June 16.
During the first 12 weeks since the COVID-19 state of emergency declaration, more than 2.5 times the total number of initial claims were filed than in all of 2019. Of the 149,227 initial claims filed, seventy-five percent were filed in the first five weeks. That created a huge backlog of claims. The department estimates the backlog of pending claims will be eliminated by the end of July.
Idaho is one of many states that has seen an increase in fraudulent claims over the past several weeks. About 25 percent of new claims during the week of June 8 were flagged for possible identity theft. A team of staff members is dedicated to identifying and addressing fraud to ensure claims are not being paid to fraudulent or off-shore bank accounts.
To help with call volume and wait times for claimants, Labor will double the number of call center agents from 50 to 100. The additional 50 agents are expected to be ready to help answer phones, take new claims, unlock accounts and provide other assistance by June 18.
Local Labor offices are open by appointment only for a wide variety of services to help people find work, including job search assistance, resume help and access to training resources. These staff members cannot help with unemployment insurance claims, however approximately 50 local office staff members have been reassigned to help work through the unemployment claims backlog. An additional 19 claims specialists have also been hired.
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