Pandemic jobless claim payouts in Delaware total $1.1 billion

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A total of $1.1 billion in unemployment claims have been paid out to Delaware workers, the Delaware Department of Labor reported on Thursday.

According to the Labor Department’s dashboard, about 80 percent of this amount has been paid out by the federal government.

The state has used CARES Act funds to fill the gap under the state’s unemployment insurance system, subject to a tax paid by employers and employees. The CARES money allowed the state to avoid an increase in that tax this year.

The state is marking the first year of the pandemic that led to the temporary closing of schools and retail stores, with restaurants moving to carry out-only service.

Many office staffers continue to work from home, with schools often operating under a combination of in-person and remote learning.

While the number of jobless claims filed with the state has dropped from the pandemic peak, the figure is still more than three times higher than the normal rate.

Federal employment programs that have added hundreds of dollars a week to unemployment checks have been in place at various times during the pandemic. Delaware’s maximum weekly payment is $400, below the payouts in neighboring states. Pennsylvania has a maximum benefit of more than $570 a week with New Jersey above $700.

Another $300 a week benefit in the recently enacted American Rescue Plan bill is going into effect.

Small business owners have reported difficulties in finding workers in lower pay tiers since jobless benefits can equal or exceed the state’s minimum wage.

Workers can be called back by employers, with the loss of jobless benefits if they do not do so. At the same time, those with pre-existing conditions say it is too dangerous to return and can appeal.

In another development, legislation to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 has been introduced in the Delaware General Assembly.

The bill is fiercely opposed by many in the state’s business community, who cite industries such as restaurants and retail that are struggling to recover from the pandemic.

They also argue that the legislation would put upward pressure on all employees’ wages and lead to job reductions and full-timers moving to part-time status, even if they are earning the minimum wage.

Other information from the weekly unemployment report

  • TotalClaims Paid(Week Ending 3/6/21)–$17,578,994
  • TotalClaims Received(2/28/21 – 3/6/21)–1,727
  • Total Claims Received(3/15/20 – 3/6/21) –191,357
  • Total PUA Claims Received(Since May 16, 2020) –14,035
  • Total PUA Claims Paid(Since May 16, 2020) –8,730
  • Payments Made for PUA Claims(Since May 16, 2020) –$118,829
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