The commissioner of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development says the state is working to ensure that as many Hoosiers as possible who are out of work as a result of COVID-19 can receive unemployment insurance benefits. During a news conference Thursday with Governor Eric Holcomb, Fred Payne says last week Indiana saw more than 62,000 unemployment insurance claims, nearly three times the amount for the entire month of January.
“In March 2009, we had 157,000 claims filed for the month. That was the highest ever at that time. So we see that things have changed a little bit over the past few weeks,” said Payne.
The governor signed an executive order Thursday authorizing the DWD to suspend the one-week waiting period that is normally required before paying unemployment benefits to claimants in an effort for them to get their checks more quickly.
“The governor has given us broad flexibility to ensure that as many Hoosiers who are out of work due to COVID-19 are covered,” said Payne. “But our federal partners have passed some additional legislation that will help Hoosiers out as well.”
Payne says the types of people and jobs or businesses that would be covered with the new legislation would be independent contractors, those who are self-employed, and those who may have a limited work history. He says the federal government is also extending the unemployment benefits expiration date by 13 weeks and adding a $600 per week emergency benefits increase for a four-month period.
The commissioner is encouraging Hoosiers to visit the DWD website to find answers to their questions before calling, however there may be delays in answering calls due to call volume.
Additionally, the director of the Indiana Office of Management and Budget says the state has already begun dipping into its $2.3 billion in reserves as a result of the pandemic.
“Those reserves have begun to be utilized and will continue to play an important part as we take the necessary steps to confront this public health emergency,” Chris Johnston said at the news conference.
Johnston says the state won’t begin to see the pandemic’s impact on revenue collections until April, when information on revenue collections for March are released.
The director adds revenue collections for April will be affected by the extension of the tax filing deadline to July. “April is our largest collection month. It’s estimated at $2.2 billion for all tax types and it’s also the largest income tax month. So that deferral will make a significant dent in those revenues, 40-50% that won’t be collected until July.”
Johnston says the state will be using the reserves to maintain priority services, such as fronting payments for personal protective equipment and covering the cost of reimbursement for unemployment insurance staff and resources, among others.
You can view the full news conference, which also included an update on the number of COVID-19 cases in Indaina, in the video below: