500% increase in CA unemployment claims

Restaurants and bars across the Bay Area closed on March 16, 2020. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

A record 6.6 million Americans filed new unemployment claims in the week ending March 28, in addition to the 3.3 million the week before, the U.S. Labor Department said Thursday. Nearly 879,000 of them were Californians — more than twice as much as any other state.

California saw nearly a 500% increase from the 186,333 new unemployment claims filed the week before. Since March 12, over 1.9 million Californians have filed for unemployment, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday.

  • Newsom: “The economic consequences are profound. And I want to speak to these issues, not only from an individual’s perspective … but also the impact on Main Street, the impact on small businesses. So often we take them for granted, even in the best of times. Right now, they have been devastated.”

The governor highlighted a series of initiatives Thursday to relieve small businesses and keep people employed:

  • A bridge loan allowing small businesses to defer payment of sales tax revenue up to $50,000 to the state for up to 12 months
  • A new federal program providing loans up to $2 million paid back over 30 years
  • Another new federal program providing loans up to $10 million, as long as 75% of that money is used to keep employees on payroll (applications open today)
  • An additional state pot of $50 million in microloans for small businesses not eligible for federal small business relief
  • A new website, onwardca.org, that pairs individuals with open jobs
  • A small business relief page on the state’s COVID-19 website for more information on the new initiatives

Newsom added that the state Employment Development Department, which processes unemployment insurance claims, is “struggling to keep up” its past schedule of sending out checks within three weeks.

The Bottom Line: As of 10 p.m. Thursday night, California had 11,175 confirmed coronavirus cases and 246 deaths from the virus, according to a Los Angeles Times tracker. (These numbers are different from those of the state Department of Public Health, which are updated less often.)

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