GREAT FALLS — The Montana Department of Labor & Industry says more than 64,000 Montanans have applied for unemployment insurance since March 15 – almost 12% of the state’s reported workforce - due COVID-19 closures and restrictions.
The trajectory of Montanans filing for unemployment has followed the national trend, which has seen more than 10 million people file in the last three weeks. In Montana, prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, incoming claims and reactivations averaged 557 per week. Between March 15 and April 3, the weekly average of incoming claims and reactivations had risen to 17,640. Before March 15th, they averaged 8,122 weekly payment requests. Since then, the payment requests have increased to 22,037 per week. Over 41,000 requests for payment were made in the first two days of this week.
Great Falls Job Service officials say they received more than 2,000 unemployment insurance claims last week. They want to let the public know their computer system has been reprogrammed to handle the amount of new UI filings. User PINS have also been reset and those who are self-employed can now file a claim as well.
Great Falls Job Service manager Beth Schmidt told MTN that many people are applying for unemployment for the first time, and she's getting questions about federal funding in the stimulus package that provides $600 weekly payments to those collecting UI benefits.
"If you have already filed a claim that is in process or you've filed a claim and you're currently receiving benefits, you do not need to take any additional action to receive that additional $600 per week," she said. Schmidt says they have no timeline at this point for when those federal funds will be distributed.
Schmidt also provided the following information:
The MontanaWorks system has had multiple upgrades to handle the capacity and is being re-programmed to accommodate the newly-eligible population as federal guidance on the CARES Act is released. Improvements made to the online claimant portal dashboard on MontanaWorks.gov include:
- The PIN reset function has been restored. Users can now reset their PIN.
- Self-employed individuals can now submit a claim, in anticipation for changes made by the recently passed stimulus package, or CARES Act.
- Claimants who create a new account or log in using an existing account on MontanaWorks can file a UI Claim, make payment requests, request a redetermination, access and update profile information, change their password and search for work.
The federal government has released some guidance on how states should proceed. We are developing and implementing changes as guidance is released. It will take some time to develop and implement these changes.
Montana is working diligently on these changes and will continue to process unemployment insurance claims under existing state law. Furthermore, any additional benefit payments, such as the $600 supplement in the CARES Act, will be backdated for eligible claimants as authorized by law.
All Montana Department of Labor & Industry offices are temporarily closed to the public to protect the health and safety of our clients and staff to prevent the spread COVID-19. This includes Job Service - Great Falls. As Montana is such a vast state, all Job Service Montana services and resources for both businesses and job-seekers are available by phone, email, or online at MontanaWorks.gov. Those in the Great Falls and the surrounding area, can call Job Service - Great Falls at (406) 791-5800 or email GreatFallsJSC@mt.gov.
- Apply for Unemployment Insurance in Montana
- Resource Guide for Montana Employers and Employees
- Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act