Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday that he would be asking the federal government for a major disaster declaration from the federal government due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Should it be approved, it would give the state access to additional financial resources beyond what the state disaster declaration provides.
Chief among the needs, according to Baker, was an allowance for disaster unemployment that would include thousands who would not be allowed such coverage during normal times.
The announcement came as the state’s Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development said that unemployment claims exploded during the week of March 15 through March 21.
In a statement, the office said that 147,995 people filed unemployment insurance claims between March 15 and March 21, a “historically unprecedented increase of 1,904% over the prior week.”
It added that the food and accommodation sectors were especially hard hit, amounting to 44,353 new claims.
The Department of Unemployment Assistance insisted that it is successfully working to stay on top of that number.
“In the last 6 days, the Department has made over 15,000 individual callbacks and have held daily virtual town halls in both English and Spanish, which have been attended by over 50,000 constituents,” said spokesman Charles Pearce. “[The] DUA will continue to work collaboratively with government, business, labor and non-profit partners on implementing innovative solutions to support individuals eligible for unemployment and provide the financial assistance they need during this difficult time.”
The numbers were attributed to the massive closure of businesses across the state caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and mirrored national trends.
According to a Thursday statement from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 3,283,000 people filed initial unemployment claims that same week across the country, an increase of 3,001,000 from the previous week.
Along with food and accommodations, the Bureau said other hard hit sectors included: health care and social assistance, arts, entertainment and recreation, transportation and warehousing, and manufacturing industries.