OFFICE INTERIOR

Nationally the coronavirus crisis led to a record-breaking 3.4 million workers filing unemployment insurance claim, but the job loses are just beginning.

In Alaska, it is looking like a 5-to-6 fold increase from February unemployment numbers, according Alaska Department of Labor Deputy Commissioner Cathy Munoz, January and February are generally the highest months of unemployment in normal circumstances.

In February, the Alaska Department of Labor paid out $10 million in benefit costs for the unemployed, says Munoz, with 7,806 initial claims for the week ending 3/14.

Alaska is estimated to lose 31,155 hospitality and retail jobs over the summer, according to the Economic Policy Institute analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Alaska's existing unemployment insurance system was not designed to accommodate a global pandemic. Tuesday, the Legislature passed House Bill 308, which ensures employees receive unemployment benefits whether they are furloughed, laid-off, lose work hours, or are forced to stay home to care for children or other loved ones as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

Alaskans will be able to receive Unemployment Insurance benefits immediately as the bill waives the standard one-week waiting requirement. The bill is designed to provide emergency relief for up to one year. Unemployment assistance is available for anyone who is “unemployed through no fault of their own.”

The weekly per-dependent benefit is increased from $25 to $75 to assist families who have lost childcare and income at the same time.

The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development is asking for people first to file a claim online. https://my.alaska.gov

Munoz says the Department of Labor is requesting state authority to extend benefits through a DUA declaration to small businesses.