DES Working to Immediately Expand Capacity in Response to Surge in COVID-19 Unemployment Claims Adding Staff, Equipment and IT Infrastructure as Unemployment Claims top 370,000. $10 million in unemployment benefits delivered so far this week.

Raleigh, N.C.

The North Carolina Division of Employment Security is taking immediate actions to help people who are unable to work because of COVID-19.

Approximately 370,000 North Carolinians have filed for unemployment insurance assistance since March 16, an unprecedented spike in filings as a result of the pandemic. Prior to COVID-19, DES received about 3,000 claims a week.

As of April 3, DES has sent out more than $10 million in unemployment benefits for claims related to COVID-19. That number will grow exponentially in the coming days. Claimants should be aware that it takes approximately 14 days from the time a person files a claim to receive their first payment.

DES is committed to intaking and processing every claim from workers impacted by COVID-19 in a timely and efficient manner, despite the extraordinary surge in demand. Accordingly, DES is moving aggressively to build the capacity necessary to help North Carolinians quickly get their benefits.

To better assist individuals and employers, initial steps include:

  • Hiring 50 new staff
  • Adding 100 staff from Division of Workforce Solutions Career Centers
  • Contracting with an additional 200-person call center
  • Adding computer servers to ensure capacity for large number of people filing online
  • Doubling printing and mail capacity to ensure timely delivery of documents
  • Purchasing more than 500 new computers and other equipment so employees in the office and at home can work to process claims.

Following these initial steps, the division will have more than 850 people working to process unemployment claims and get payments out the door.

“The Division of Employment Security understands that for people who have lost their jobs, the assistance can’t get there soon enough,” said Lockhart Taylor, assistant secretary for DES. “We are taking immediate action to increase our capacity in the face of this historic challenge and be there for the North Carolinians who need our help.”

Last Saturday, Governor Roy Cooper authorized DES to implement three federal unemployment programs. The first provides an additional $600 in weekly benefits. The second provides up to 13 additional weeks of benefits. The third is Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which is assistance for people who are not typically eligible for state unemployment benefits. This should provide coverage to self-employed workers or independent contractors. DES needs final guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor in order to make the federal assistance available.

Individuals can file for unemployment benefits online at des.nc.gov. Those who have internet access are encouraged to check the website for updates and answers to their questions before calling the customer call center. People without internet access should call 888-737-0259 for assistance.

The most up-to-date information about eligibility and how to apply for benefits can be found on the Division of Employment Security website at des.nc.gov.