WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The office that handles claims for unemployment benefits in the West Palm Beach area is expecting a surge in claims as many businesses begin laying off workers.
“We have noticed a slight increase in the number of people coming in for unemployment claims unfortunately, and again, we expect that number to really ramp up in the next week or so,” says Tom Veenstra of CareerSource Palm Beach County.
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Veenstra says most of the unemployed are coming from retail stores and restaurants as many businesses cut back on services and hours to try and contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is a tough time for everybody, but we are here open for business to help people at this critical time,” Veenstra said.
Outside the office, Evelyn Mercado was worried as she applied for benefits after losing her job.
“We’re all panicking. We don’t know what’s going to happen,” Mercado says.
Benefits for the unemployed in Florida are currently limited to 12 weeks and are capped at $275 a week.
U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel says she would like to see benefits to laid off workers streamlined and cleared of hurdles.
Frankel says Congress has already approved to offer aid to states for unemployment benefits and help for small businesses and she’s involved in discussions about helping workers.
On Wednesday, President Trump proposed as much as $500 billion to be paid out to most Americans.
“We have to get money into the pockets of Americans, and we also need to try to salvage as many of these small businesses as possible,” Frankel said.