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Over 17,000 claims and counting: NC unemployment filings spike as result of coronavirus

In a typical week, the state receives about 3,000 claims. In just two days, the Division of Employment Security got nearly 18,000.

RALEIGH, N.C. — The experts who handle unemployment in our state say they usually process about 3,000 claims a week.

That number shot up to 17,874 claims between Tuesday afternoon and Thursday morning, as people nationwide try to find relief.

Many servers and bartenders here in Greensboro, across the Triad and the state, are out of a job - unexpectedly applying for unemployment.

Before the coronavirus arrived in our state, Crystal Willingham felt secure in her job as a server at Carolina Ale House in Winston-Salem. 

"Once everything started closing down in other places we thought, okay, well I guess it's going to happen here," she said Thursday. 

Her bosses told her and her fellow co-workers to start filing for unemployment on Monday, a day before Governor Roy Cooper's executive order closing dining rooms.

"I got an email today saying that they had accepted the claim, and they were saying normally they would a week, but if it was because of the coronavirus then it would be shorter," she said. 

As she waits on benefits, an unprecedented number of people are in the process of filing. 

The State's Division of Employment Security says tens of thousands are logging onto the system, putting a strain on the website and phone lines. 

RELATED: Impacted by coronavirus? Here's how to file for unemployment in North Carolina

A spokesperson said a recently upgraded server capacity plus more staffing should help moving forward. 

"In North Carolina, the maximum benefit amount is $350 per week," explained Chris Rivera, interim director with the Guilford County Workforce Development Board. 

Rivera said the Governor's executive order also relaxed unemployment requirements, for people out of a job because of COVID-19. 

"It eased the requirement that you have to be looking for work while you are collecting benefits," he said.

He said order also speeds up the timeline, so those approved could get benefits sooner. 

"That easement is applicable only to those individuals who are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic."

Keep in mind the approval could take several days because employers get 10 days to get back to the state to verify questions about your claim. 

RELATED: First case of COVID-19 community spread case identified in North Carolina

RELATED: The top 11 unemployment questions related to the coronavirus

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