Last week, COVID-19 caused restaurants, bars, and other businesses to close their doors for at least 30 days. Furloughed workers exponentially increased the traffic to unemployment websites, setting a new record. Reports show that 3.3 million people filed for first-time unemployment claims in the week of March 15. The previous record for first-time unemployment insurance claims was 695,000, set in October of 1982.
The current system was not prepared for these unprecedented numbers, and many states did not have the IT infrastructure to handle the surge in claims. Claimants frequently got kicked off of overloaded websites. In an attempt to divert traffic, many people were told to call unemployment offices directly, which were also thoroughly overwhelmed. “We are doing everything we can. We are adding servers on a daily basis and we are adding people for the call lines,” said a spokesperson for Florida’s Department for Economic Opportunity.