MONTGOMERY, Ala.- Over the past year the Alabama Department of Labor has processed around half a million unemployment compensation claims, the department calls the year record-breaking.
“Which I think you could easily say is more than in the past five years combined if not more. So it’s definitely been a record-setting year,” says Tara Hutchison.
At one point in the highest point of the pandemic, ADOL had more than 110 thousand initial claims filed in one week.
“That’s just unheard of, generally at the same time last year that number would be under 10,000 sometimes under 5,000 so that just shows you the extreme spikes we saw during the pandemic, this was during the shutdown,” says Hutchison.
Tara Hutchison says it’s been eye opening and sometimes overwhelming for those working at ADOL.
“We had been trucking along with record low unemployment, great jobs numbers and you know for the past several years having great economic news every month then you know basically overnight we were hit with a tsunami of claims that we still had the same budget and the same number of staff we had under great times,” says Hutchison.
But ADOL had big challenges along the way.
“Dealing with this record-setting number of claimants and the number of claims. Several brand new federal programs introduced over the past year with very little time to implement those,” says Hutchison.
Numbers have fluctuated throughout the year but they are significantly down now. ADOL continues to see a decrease in unemployment rates, the number of initial claims filed and the number of benefits paid out.
“However we’re still paying anywhere from, depending on the week anywhere from 85 to 100 thousand people per week. Which is still significantly more than we would normally be paying,” says Hutchison.
Going forward, ADOL says they will continue to do everything they can to help those who need it.
“We understand these benefits can be a lifeline in times like these and we understand there are families struggling out there and that it’s not always easy to get in touch with us if you have an issue with your claim, we are working as best we can and as hard as we can to answer everyone’s questions however we continue to encourage patience even though it’s in short supply,” says Hutchinson.
ADOL will also continue to work with the U.S. Department of Labor as they issue new guidance to provide benefits to those who truly need them in the fastest manner, while at the same time preventing fraudulent behavior in the unemployment system.
“It’s rampant nationwide and it’s certainly a serious problem here in Alabama as well,” says Hutchison.