CONNECTICUT — The state's backlog on processing unemployment benefits recently grew from three weeks to five weeks despite efforts to get more workers to process claims.
"I’m sad to report that there’s a five-week lag time," Gov. Ned Lamont said at a Tuesday news conference. "Everything is retroactive, so even if it's slow for us to get it back to you, it’s not that our heart’s not there, it’s because the technology is 40 years old."
The state Department of Labor is in the process of upgrading its antiquated processing mainframe, but the process won't be done for at least another year.
In the meantime, Lamont said the federal economic stimulus checks should be arriving within the next few weeks.
Connecticut has seen an unprecedented number of unemployment claims in the past few weeks due to coronavirus-related layoffs and furloughs; the average volume of daily claims increased 20-fold and dwarfed even the worst days during the Great Recession, state Department of Labor Commissioner Kurt Westby said.
Around 99,000 unemployment claims were made in the state between March 13 and 23. The labor department stopped reporting numbers because of many duplicate claims and concern that the figures would be used for speculation in the stock market.
The department has brought on retirees and pulled state employees with claim processing experience from other departments back into processing.
Meanwhile, the labor department is also analyzing the federal CARES Act, which was signed into law March 27 and provides for a supplemental unemployment benefit of $600. It has released an FAQ for common coronavirus-related unemployment filing issues.
The YMCA of Greater Hartford announced nearly 1,000 furloughs and Mystic Seaport Museum will have 199 furloughs. Several restaurants and hotels have announced furloughs; at least one restaurant has already closed permanently.
More than 50 banks and credit unions in Connecticut have joined an initiative to offer a 90-day grace period on mortgages for homeowners who have suffered economic hardship from the coronavirus. The banks have also agreed to not start foreclosure sales or evictions for 60 days.
The initiative has the endorsement of the Connecticut Bankers Association and the Credit Union League of Connecticut. The Department of Banking will maintain an updated list of participating institutions on its website.
The U.S. Treasury announced that economic stimulus checks will begin in the next three weeks and will be distributed automatically using information from prior tax returns. The maximum payment is $1,200 for singles and $2,400 for couples plus $500 for qualified dependent children. Money will automatically be deposited electronically into bank accounts via direct deposit if that option was selected during a prior tax return year.
The Treasury is developing a web portal for people to add their banking information in order to get direct deposit instead of a check in the mail.