NC Scrambles to Process Surge of Unemployment Requests

CHARLOTTE, NC – A surge of North Carolinians in the unemployment line has the state scrambling to process the massive amount of benefits.

“I stood on hold for three hours,” said Megan Clark. 

Like thousands of others, Clark filed for unemployment in mid-March. 

“So to be told that your indefinitely not coming back to work with no sign of when you’re ever going to be able to go back to work is a very scary feeling,” said Clark. 

For the last 14 years, she’s worked as a server for HMS Hosts at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport. She now joins nearly 500,000 other North Carolinians who are unemployed due to COVID19. 

“It absolutely breaks my heart,” said Clark.

She and others have spent long hours on the phone, dealt with an overloaded website, only to get few answers. 

“We’ve taken immediate action in the face of this historic challenge,” said Lockhart Taylor, the Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Employment Security, “we hear your frustration. And I know the importance these benefits will have during times of uncertainty.”

Taylor says his office typically handles 3,000 claims a week. Since mid-March, the average number of claims per week is close to 150,000.

Taylor says they’ve paid out more than $40 million dollars in unemployment benefits in that time span. 

“Time is critical and precious for those who are out of work. I, my staff and the secretary of commerce is pushing the department to move as fast as possible,” said Gov. Roy Cooper. 

Cooper signed an executive order on Thursday to speed up the process for businesses to file group unemployment claims.

“We hope to get benefits into the hands of those who need them faster,” said Cooper.

Thousands of people are now waiting with an uncertain future. 

“I try and stay positive and I try to always just kind of know that at some point i will be paid,” said Clark. 

Nationwide, the numbers are even grimmer. About 15 million Americans have filed for unemployment. Economists forecast that the unemployment rate will jump into the teens in April, up from 4.4% in March.