Unemployment claims in the First State were up slightly last week after steadily falling for the previous six weeks.
The Delaware Labor Department says 5,584 first-time claims were filed by the end of last week. That’s 387 more than the previous week.
Director for the Division of Unemployment Insurance Darryl Scott explains why there was a slight uptick.
“The reason for that is we believe that there are about a thousand or so of those claims that will be referred to our Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program," Scott said. "So, those are individuals that don’t normally qualify for regular unemployment - self-employed, independent contractors, employees of faith-based organizations and others.”
The total number of first time claims since the COVID-19 pandemic started is now nearly 96,000. The bulk of those came between March 15 and April 11 when almost 62,000 claims were filed.
But the 5,500-plus claims this week are still about 10 times higher than a normal week before the pandemic struck and many businesses were to shut down or restrict operations.
The State Department of Labor says it has paid 73 percent of the claims it received between March 15th and May 9th. Last week alone, payments made on claims totaled a little more than $46.7 million.
These latest numbers come as the state prepares to begin Phase 1 of its reopening plan June 1st and Gov John Carney has initiated some “rolling reopening” measures letting some parts of the state and its economy to ramp up even sooner.
Scott said continuing payments will cause the state’s unemployment trust fund to run dry in late June. He noted they are looking at borrowing from the federal government to replenish the fund.
But, state budget officials said federal COVID-19 relief dollars can also be used to fill the gap and the state is considering that option.