CHESHIRE— A week into the brunt of the economic fallout from the COVID-19 crisis, 72,000 Connecticut residents have applied for unemployment.
The unprecedented numbers have caused the state’s online portal to crash for brief periods, but the Department of Labor said applications will all get through, and they are approving almost all virus-related claims.
Layoffs and cut hours are hurting almost every industry in the state. But there are some places that are hiring.
“We’re looking for full-time people, part-time people,” said Scott Grove with Bozzuto’s wholesale distributor in Cheshire. “Our opportunity to hire is pretty limitless right now.”
Bozzuto’s warehouses are buzzing—workers there have been working around the clock and demand has never been higher. Grove said they’re looking to hire more staff statewide and beyond.
“We’re looking for CDLA drivers, diesel technicians, we’re even looking for people who have skills in marketing, accounting, HR,” said Grove.
Across the nation, grocery stores and suppliers are adding jobs, despite record rapid unemployment.
Amazon is adding 800 Connecticut jobs in North Haven, Windsor and across the state.
Stop & Shop is hiring at every one of its stores—from clerks, cashiers, porters and baggers, to the bakery, deli, seafood and meat departments.
“I’m getting calls left and right from people who may have been ready to work for the police force but that’s on hold now, or college students who are home,” said Grove.
State DOL Commissioner Kurt Westby said his team is working nonstop and he’s calling in retired workers to help with the wave on unemployment benefit applications. The DOL’s online portal is backlogged but Westby promises everyone will get through.
“It’s an overloaded system, not designed for anywhere need the numbers we’re experiencing now. We have expert technicians on it, keeping it going but that’s why I urged folks to be patient,” said Westby.
Eligibility requirements are being relaxed. The federal government is looking at extending the six-month limit to receive benefits.
“If I had to estimate I’d say at least 90% if not more are going to approved under the COVID-19 situation,” said DOL Deputy Commissioner Daryle Dudzinski.
The DOL is asking employers to furlough their staff instead of laying people off. The process is faster and workers will qualify for unemployment more quickly.