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DES MOINES — Waiters, waitresses, bartenders, hotel employees and other workers in Iowa’s accommodation and food services industries who were idled due to the COVID-19 outbreak are filing jobless benefits claims in droves, state officials said Thursday.

Iowa Workforce Development officials report the initial unemployment insurance claims filed for week of March 15-21 was 40,952 and the agency paid a total of $10,674,712 of unemployment insurance benefits to Iowans for the week ending on March 20, reflecting the pace of layoffs.

The maximum amount of unemployment benefits a laid-off Iowans who qualifies can receive will vary based on how many dependents a claimant has, according to IWD officials. For a claimant with four dependents, the maximum is $591 per week; for a claimant with no dependents, the maximum weekly benefit amount is $481.

Claimants can expect to receive payment within seven to 10 days after the date the claim is filed, according to an IWD spokeswoman. The maximum number of weeks a claimant is eligible is 26 weeks, the agency said. But, if a claimant is working part-time and reporting wages, the number of weeks is extended due to only receiving a partial payment each week.

The number of continuing weekly unemployment claims as a result of COVID-19 will be available in next Thursday’s release, according to an IWD news release.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday that nearly 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week — more than quadruple the previous record set in 1982 — amid a widespread economic shutdown caused by the coronavirus.

The surge in weekly applications was a stunning reflection of the damage the viral outbreak is inflicting on the economy. Filings for unemployment aid generally reflect the pace of layoffs.

In Iowa, the top five industries with the most coronavirus-related claims in March 15-21 time period were accommodation and food services (13,364); health care and social assistance (4,936), education services (2,698), other services (1,999), and retail trade (1,710).

Last week IWD Director Beth Townsend called the volume of Iowans filing for unemployment benefits “staggering” and approaching in one week what normally would be a month’s worth of claims.

IWD employees were able to process all of the initial unemployment insurance claims received in the latest weekly time frame despite the significant surge in claims, but Gov. Kim Reynolds on Wednesday apologized for delays and said the agency had dedicated 250 staff members to processing claim requests.

On March 17, the governor declared a statewide public health disaster emergency that included limiting gatherings to 10 people and closing bars, restaurants, casinos and a number of other businesses as part of a widespread economic shutdown caused by the state’s coronavirus outbreak.

Reynolds said she took the extraordinary action in activating the public health response and recovery aspects of the state disaster emergency plan to slow the community spread of the virus that already has resulted in one death triggered 145 known confirmed cases and likely will grow in the future.

The extraordinary order imposed restrictions on gatherings larger than 10 people, restaurants, bars, fitness centers, adult day cares, casinos and a number of other Iowa businesses until the end March 31 unless it gets changed or extended.

Comments: (515) 243-7220; rod.boshart@thegazette.com

This article originally ran on globegazette.com.

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