Dept. of Labor data shows long waits for unemployment payments

Why unemployment benefits were delayed for many

NORTH CAROLINA (WECT) - North Carolina, like the rest of the United States, has been dealing with staggering unemployment numbers since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

And like the rest of the country, many of the payments made over the last six months have taken longer than expected to arrive.

The US Department of Labor records how long it takes for the first payment of an unemployment claim to reach the claimant.

InvestigateTV, WECT’s national investigative unit, found that over the last decade states were on-average able to pay around half of their unemployment claims within one week.

Thanks to the pandemic, payments arriving in that time-frame now only cover about a third of claims.

WECT Investigates analyzed the data specific to North Carolina, comparing numbers from March through the end of July for the last 20 years.

That analysis, among other things, looked at the last major economic crisis — the recession pf 2008-2009.

During that time, the majority of claims were still paid within a week, but this year, the largest group of claims fall into the 8-14 day category.

This table shows the number of days that passed before claimants received their first unemployment payment.
This table shows the number of days that passed before claimants received their first unemployment payment. (Source: WECT)

While the majority of North Carolina’s claims from March through July received their first payment within three weeks — 143,082 took 22 days or more.

Of those, 9,500 took 70 days or more — leaving claimants waiting for more than two months for their first payment.

A large part of the delay, a spokesperson from the state said on behalf of the North Carolina Division of Employment Security, is the sheer number of claims that have come in since the beginning of March.

“There has been a tremendous surge in claims for unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the spokesperson wrote in an email. “The Division of Employment Security went from averaging 3,000 claims per week to taking an average of 18,000 a day in the first six weeks of the pandemic.”

Other causes for delays, the division said, can be due to missing information or improperly filed claims, claims that have been flagged as suspicious, federal requirements or other complexities.

The spokesperson reported that the division has whittled the list of outstanding claims down to about 30,000.

Additionally, the spokesperson said NCDES has established a dedicated team to handle the longest outstanding and most complicated cases.

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