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Boise State Public Radio News is here to keep you current on the news surrounding COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Nearly 109,000 Idaho Unemployment Filings Since Mid-March

Troy Oppie
Boise State Public Radio

Nearly 109,000 Idahoans have applied for initial unemployment since mid-March, according to the latest statistics from the Idaho Department of Labor. Thirteen thousand initial unemployment claims were made last week, a 30% drop from the prior week but still 12 times higher than last year’s average.

Over the last five weeks, Idaho has received nearly twice as many initial claims as all of last year. More than $31 million have been distributed since March 23, and the labor department says more than 67,000 are receiving on-going benefits. In March 2009, the peak of the great recession in Idaho, just over 47,000 people received continuous unemployment checks. Today, there are many people still waiting for help.

“I've had bartenders that have spent more time on hold than they did actually bartending in the last couple weeks,” said Aubrie Scoffield.


She runs The Nook bar in Boise and she had to lay off five employees and herself when the bar closed in March. She has been helping her staff and other industry friends with the filing process. 


"We made sure that we helped several other bartenders [and] servers that just don’t know how to file for this. [They] don’t know how to go through the process," Scoffield said. "I’ve been on the phone with unemployment myself as their employer to try to get things cleared."


Only three Nook staff, including herself, have received unemployment benefits.


Scoffield's staff with multiple jobs are the ones still waiting for benefits, which complicates the filing process. The backlog at the labor department seems to be getting better. One Nook staffer said she waited on hold three hours this week. The week before she had waited 15.


Scoffield and her staff are frustrated. She says employees working at the labor department aren't to blame.


"But there should have been a much better plan in place for these people who make less than minimum wage," Scoffield said. "You can't go to your landlord and say, 'Hey, I've been on the phone every day.' That doesn't do anything. You need somebody to say, 'Hey, somebody at Idaho Labor told me my case is pending. It will go through.' And then I'll have you my rent money."


The state Department of Labor did not have anyone available to comment Thursday, but said in a statement they continue to add capacity and staff, and remain on schedule to get the $600 federal CARES Act benefit out to filers by the end of the month.


Follow Troy Oppie on Twitter @GoodBadOppie for more local news.

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Troy Oppie is a reporter and local host of 'All Things Considered' for Boise State Public Radio News.

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