Jefferson City, MO –– The Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations’ (DOLIR’s) Division of Employment Security (DES) reported a total of 104,230 initial claims for the week ending March 28, 2020, the most recent week for which claims information is available. That is an increase of nearly 147 percent over the previous week’s initial claims of 42,207. More than 89,000 of the 104,230 initial claims were COVID-19 related.
To deal with the increased volume of work, the DES is utilizing staff from all program areas within the Division, across all of DOLIR’s Divisions and has hired temporary workers to assist Additionally, to process the workload, the claims center staff is working overtime to help ensure Missouri workers who have lost their jobs due to no fault of their own receive their benefits in as timely a manner as possible. On the technology side, the Department has incorporated additional server capacity as well as phone connections to deal with the record-breaking numbers of claims filings and phone calls. “The best way for workers to file a claim is online at UInteract.labor.mo.gov. Our staff is taking an unprecedented number of phone calls, but many calls are related to questions and new law changes and not the filing of a claim. This consumes precious staff time and blocks assistance to those who need to file a claim, but do not have access to the internet,” said DES Director Chris Slinkard.
The recent passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) which expands unemployment benefits has greatly increased the number of calls into the DES claims centers. “We understand that everyone is anxious about what this means for them in terms of being eligible if you are self-employed or when a claimant might expect to receive the $600 supplement,” said Slinkard. “Since the program is fully federally funded, and not a state program, DOLIR must wait for the guidance issued by the US Department of Labor (USDOL) to properly administer and receive the funding for the program. Trying to do this before we receive the federal guidance, could cost the State and the employers millions of dollars. We expect this guidance very soon and like thousands of Missourians, we’re anxiously awaiting word from our federal partners so that we can provide the new benefits as quickly as possible.” As DOLIR receives updated guidance from the federal government, its labor.mo.gov/coronavirus website will be continually updated. Citizens are encouraged to check back frequently for new information. Once the federal guidance is provided, the Department will incorporate such changes into the online system, UInteract.labor.mo.gov, which will serve as a single portal for both state and federal unemployment benefit programs.
The CARES Act was signed into law on Friday, March 27, 2020. In order for the federal benefits, administered by the DES, to begin flowing to eligible Missourians at the first possible moment, DOLIR Director Anna Hui, acting at the Direction of Governor Parson, signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor the very next day. As soon as USDOL implementation guidance is received, the DES will be working to update the UInteract system to reflect these changes to be ready to stand up the federal unemployment benefits. Payments could then flow out once Missouri receives the federal funding.
Unemployed workers are encouraged to file their unemployment claims online at uinteract.labor.mo.gov and as soon as they are separated from their employer. For convenience, the UInteract website is available 24/7 and mobile-friendly. Over 90 percent of initial claims are now filed online.
For questions and answers related to the coronavirus and unemployment as well as other effects on employment, visit labor.mo.gov/coronavirus frequently for updates.