25 Investigates: Unemployment claims surge in Mass., some having issues filing for benefits

Layoffs associated with this global health emergency have been happening for about a month now. And last week, they exploded, when nearly 150,000 people filed for unemployment in Massachusetts.

BOSTON — Layoffs associated with this global health emergency have been happening for about a month now.

And last week, they exploded, when nearly 150,000 people filed for unemployment in Massachusetts.

To give you some context, that’s twice as many new unemployment claims than the worst entire month of the great recession in 2008.

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There are tens of thousands of people in Massachusetts who need financial help right now to pay for essentials like food and rent.

The state’s ability to process unemployment claims is being tested like never before. Unemployment claims have gone up more than 1,900 percent. With nearly 150,000 in one week, it’s record number.

All unemployment offices in Massachusetts are closed to the public, so there’s no way to speak with anyone face-to-face in person.

The state Department of Unemployment Assistance said the fastest way to apply is online.

We checked the website is up and running. It says most claims will be processed within 21-28 days but it may take longer if there is an issue with a claim.

Isaiah Hunt of Dorchester is having an issue filing.

Hunt had to dip into his savings to buy food for the home he shares with his fiance with young daughter, and the money is running out.

"Once the savings go down to zero, I feel like there’s no hope for anything," Hunt said.

Hunt was laid off from his job as a school van driver nearly two weeks ago.

Hunt has tried numerous times to file online but he says the system won’t let him create an account.

“They said try to go online and get a call back from them but the callback was full so it said try again another day, so I tried the next day and tried filling out for the callback. Still haven’t received a call back from that day,” Hunt said.

That was two weeks ago.

The state Department of Unemployment Assistance told 25 Investigates that it’s doing everything it can to process claims as quickly as possible in these unprecedented times.

By email, the DUA told Boston 25 it will continue “to prioritize efforts to address the phone system by deploying hundreds of employees to work remotely with the additional claimants. In the last five days, the department has made over 14,000 individual callbacks.”

This is new territory. The DUA said it will have six times the staff it normally does working the phones.

And they’re trying to find solutions to make sure everyone who qualifies for unemployment gets it.

Hunt said his entire family depends on him.

“They depend on me and not only do they depend on me, my mom and my other family all depend on me. It’s just very stressful,” Hunt said.

Restaurant and hotel employees filed the most unemployment claims last week.

With more than 44,000 claims filed, nobody is going to get rich from unemployment.

Weekly benefits are about half of weekly earnings.

The maximum anyone can collect through unemployment is $823 a week.