A state-by-state breakdown of failures in unemployment systems across the US during the pandemic

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A state-by-state breakdown of failures in unemployment systems across the US during the pandemic
  • As the COVID-19 pandemic caused record joblessness across the US, thousands of unemployed people experienced problems getting unemployment benefits from their state on time — or, sometimes, at all.
  • In the US, unemployment insurance is given out by individual state labor departments, meaning each has its own particular, often outdated, system for processing claims.
  • Though Americans filed a record number of jobless claims in March, overwhelming many state agencies, experts previously told Business Insider that many states had limited resources to administer unemployment benefits due to years of neglect and diminished funding.
  • Business Insider rounded up 35 states that struggled with giving out unemployment benefits during the pandemic. Issues included backlogs, delayed payments, payments sent to fraudsters, and poor communication between the agency and laid-off workers.
  • Here, in alphabetical order by state, is a roundup of many states' struggles to give unemployment benefits to jobless Americans.

In Alabama, a technical glitch within the unemployment filing system led to as many as 53,000 possible account suspensions.

In Alabama, a technical glitch within the unemployment filing system led to as many as 53,000 possible account suspensions.
Exterior view of the Baptist Health Coronavirus Care Clinic on March 23, 2020 in Montgomery, Alabama. Taylor Hill/Getty
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Arizona was one of the first states approved for additional $300 in federal aid from President Trump's August 8 memorandum, by which point more than 26,000 claims were sitting in a backlog.

Arizona was one of the first states approved for additional $300 in federal aid from President Trump's August 8 memorandum, by which point more than 26,000 claims were sitting in a backlog.
People look to cast their ballots during Arizona's primary election at Burton Barr Central Library. Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images

Source: CNBC, Fox

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Arkansas Commerce Secretary Mike Presten said that as of August, 25,000 people remained locked out of receiving unemployment benefits due to a poorly designed system. Another 10,000 were delayed in receiving regular payments.

Arkansas Commerce Secretary Mike Presten said that as of August, 25,000 people remained locked out of receiving unemployment benefits due to a poorly designed system. Another 10,000 were delayed in receiving regular payments.
Athens, Alabama Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty Images
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Despite processing eight million clams between March and August, California still had a backlog of claims that it estimated would take two months to clear.

Despite processing eight million clams between March and August, California still had a backlog of claims that it estimated would take two months to clear.
Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Source: ABC

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In Colorado, 8,000 calls to the state's department of labor and employment were going unanswered per day as of July, and 30% to 50% of unemployment claims were being rejected due to fraud a month later.

In Colorado, 8,000 calls to the state's department of labor and employment were going unanswered per day as of July, and 30% to 50% of unemployment claims were being rejected due to fraud a month later.
Extra precautions and measures are being taken by healthcare professionals to protect against the spread of coronavirus within the hospital. The number of patients who go to the emergency room have fallen due to the scare of coronavirus. AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Image

Source: Denver Post

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In Connecticut, more than 8,000 people waited as long as 10 weeks for a hearing with the state over problems approving their unemployment applications.

In Connecticut, more than 8,000 people waited as long as 10 weeks for a hearing with the state over problems approving their unemployment applications.
Patron Francesca Macartney Beale dines at Douro restaurant on May 20, 2020 in Greenwich, Connecticut. John Moore/Getty Images

Source: CT Mirror

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Delaware officials said in June that 3,600 individuals had been delayed in receiving unemployment benefits due to a technical error.

Delaware officials said in June that 3,600 individuals had been delayed in receiving unemployment benefits due to a technical error.
A man passes a COVID-19 sign on the boardwalk at Bethany Beach in Delaware Reuters
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In Florida, one chef told ClickOrlando in August that he had yet to receive unemployment benefits since he got laid off five months earlier, on March 20.

In Florida, one chef told ClickOrlando in August that he had yet to receive unemployment benefits since he got laid off five months earlier, on March 20.
A sign alerts beachgoers to wear a mask near Anglin's Pier in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea on Wednesday, June 17, 2020 John McCall/South Florida Sun Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
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Georgia's department of labor attributed delays in unemployment benefits to investigations into fraud.

Georgia's department of labor attributed delays in unemployment benefits to investigations into fraud.
FILE PHOTO: Employees at Forza Storico attach prepare meals for Emory healthcare workers days before the phased reopening of businesses and restaurants from coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. April 21, 2020. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage/File Photo

Source: Alive

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In Hawaii, more than 100,000 people experienced delays for weeks due to technology problems.

In Hawaii, more than 100,000 people experienced delays for weeks due to technology problems.
A beachgoer wearing a protective mask walks down Waikiki Beach, with Diamond Head mountain in the background, during the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S. April 28, 2020. Reuters/Marco Garcia
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In Idaho, just 30,000 of the 77,430 people who got laid off in March received payments within a month. The state was among the slowest in the country to begin making payments amid the pandemic.

In Idaho, just 30,000 of the 77,430 people who got laid off in March received payments within a month. The state was among the slowest in the country to begin making payments amid the pandemic.
Marquee sign at Idaho nightclub bar after being closed as part of citywide order to help prevent spread of the Coronavirus, downtown Moscow, Idaho, home of the University of Idaho. Don & Melinda Crawford/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
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In Indiana, 20,000 residents did not receive unemployment payments for the week of August 16 due to a systemwide change.

In Indiana, 20,000 residents did not receive unemployment payments for the week of August 16 due to a systemwide change.
A sign on the door of Flannery's Tavern lets customers know the business is still closed on May 13, 2020 in Chesterton, Indiana. Scott Olson/Getty Images

Source: WishTV

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Iowa's system dates back to 1972, leading to reports of jammed phone lines, with some saying they couldn't even get placed on hold or called for a month straight without getting through.

Iowa's system dates back to 1972, leading to reports of jammed phone lines, with some saying they couldn't even get placed on hold or called for a month straight without getting through.
Carts of food sit lined up ready to be loaded onto a delivery truck at the Des Moines Area Religious Council food pantry in Iowa on March 17, 2020. Charlie Neibergall/AP
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Kansas Labor Secretary Delía García resigned in June due to problems with administering unemployment benefits, including giving 4,500 people duplicate payments.

Kansas Labor Secretary Delía García resigned in June due to problems with administering unemployment benefits, including giving 4,500 people duplicate payments.
Cole Downing, a bartender, wears a protective mask as he cleans chairs and tables at the Flying Saucer Draught Emporium in Little Rock, Arkansas on Monday, May 11, 2020. Andrew DeMillo/AP
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The Louisiana Workforce Commission said the flood of jobless claims overwhelmed the system, which wasn't built for that level of capacity. Many residents said their payments were delayed for weeks.

The Louisiana Workforce Commission said the flood of jobless claims overwhelmed the system, which wasn't built for that level of capacity. Many residents said their payments were delayed for weeks.
Elena Likaj, prevention department manager at Odyssey House Louisiana (OHL) which runs a drive-through testing site, takes the temperature of New Orleans resident Peyton Gill as OHL began testing bikers for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New Orleans, Louisiana, March 27, 2020. Kathleen Flynn/Reuters

Source: Nola.com

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Maine residents who qualify for benefits said their jobless claims were "stuck" in the computer system, leaving them without pay for months. The leaders responsible for the computer system's glitch hadn't solved the issue as of early September.

Maine residents who qualify for benefits said their jobless claims were "stuck" in the computer system, leaving them without pay for months. The leaders responsible for the computer system's glitch hadn't solved the issue as of early September.
Most states experienced technical glitches, fraud, or overwhelmed unemployment systems that led to thousands of Americans waiting weeks for their unemployment benefits. Derek Davis/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
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Unemployment claims were delayed by more than two months for some Michigan residents as of July.

Unemployment claims were delayed by more than two months for some Michigan residents as of July.
A State of Michigan Unemployment Agency office is seen in Cadillac Place that is currently closed because of coronavirus, COVID-19, in Detroit, Michigan. JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images

Source: Fox 17

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Montana paid out $10 million in potentially fraudulent unemployment claims during the pandemic, per the state's department of labor and industry.

Montana paid out $10 million in potentially fraudulent unemployment claims during the pandemic, per the state's department of labor and industry.
Brendan Miller (left) and Belle Murphy wait on customer Nolan Scott of Helena at the concessions stand at the Helena Senators and Missoula Mavericks amateur baseball game on May 21, 2020 in Helena, Montana. Janie Osborne/Getty Images
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Nebraska Labor Commissioner John Albin apologized in May for delays in processing claims, acknowledging that the state wasn't even processing 75% of claims within 28 days by that point.

Nebraska Labor Commissioner John Albin apologized in May for delays in processing claims, acknowledging that the state wasn't even processing 75% of claims within 28 days by that point.
A record amount of Americans are still out of a job, and unemployment benefits are set to expire on July 31. John Sommers II/Getty Images
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A Nevada unemployment benefits center closed due to an outbreak at the site. The state had a backlog of up to 17 weeks for some people.

A Nevada unemployment benefits center closed due to an outbreak at the site. The state had a backlog of up to 17 weeks for some people.
Entertainment and events have come to a halt during the COVID-19 pandemic highly impacting Las Vegas work force. BRIDGET BENNETT/AFP via Getty Images
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The New Jersey Senate Labor Committee approved a bill requiring an audit of the state's unemployment agency after it delayed payments to workers for months.

The New Jersey Senate Labor Committee approved a bill requiring an audit of the state's unemployment agency after it delayed payments to workers for months.
A general view of people enjoying a beautiful spring day in Liberty State Park with the Statue of Liberty in the background during the covid-19 pandemic on May 3, 2020 in Jersey City, NJ. Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Source: NJ.com

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North Carolina was ranked the worst state for receiving timely unemployment benefits even prior to the pandemic — and during the crisis ProPublica proclaimed it "the worst state to be unemployed."

North Carolina was ranked the worst state for receiving timely unemployment benefits even prior to the pandemic — and during the crisis ProPublica proclaimed it "the worst state to be unemployed."
Social distancing to stop the spread of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) signage displayed on track during qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 24, 2020 in Concord, North Carolina. Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Source: WCNC, ProPublica

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North Dakota's employment office said in April that "technical issues" had delayed payments from being made on time.

North Dakota's employment office said in April that "technical issues" had delayed payments from being made on time.
Jennifer Pepple poses next to a shirt that reads "KEEP CALM AND SANITIZE ON" at the Shirt Shop located in the West Acres Mall in Fargo, North Dakota on Wednesday, March 18, 2020. David Kolpack/AP
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Ohio placed 270,000 unemployment claims on hold in August amid concerns about fraud.

Ohio placed 270,000 unemployment claims on hold in August amid concerns about fraud.
Election worker Thurayya Umb reviews applications for election ballots at the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, Wednesday, April 22, 2020, in Cleveland AP Photo/Tony Dejak
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As of June, 200 residents were waiting in line per day outside Oklahoma City's Oklahoma Employment Commission to try to resolve problems with their submitted claims.

As of June, 200 residents were waiting in line per day outside Oklahoma City's Oklahoma Employment Commission to try to resolve problems with their submitted claims.
Travelers wearing masks walk past a closed store at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City, as airlines limit flights due to the virus outbreak on Tuesday, March 17, 2020. Sue Ogrocki/AP
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Two of Oregon's representatives in Congress sent a letter to the state's employment department, criticizing its lack of "communication and transparency" after the state acknowledged its computer system sometimes gave improper guidance and incorrectly denied claims.

Two of Oregon's representatives in Congress sent a letter to the state's employment department, criticizing its lack of "communication and transparency" after the state acknowledged its computer system sometimes gave improper guidance and incorrectly denied claims.
Teachers in the largest school district in Oregon voted Tuesday, May 5, on a proposal to furlough all staff for one day a week through July to save money during the pandemic and then use money from unemployment and the federal bailout to backfill their pay. Gillian Flaccus / AP Photo

Source: Oregon Live

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In Pennsylvania, 90,000 workers who filed for unemployment benefits between March 15 and June 20 hadn't gotten any money as of July.

In Pennsylvania, 90,000 workers who filed for unemployment benefits between March 15 and June 20 hadn't gotten any money as of July.
An empty Philadelphia street. Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Getty Images
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In Rhode Island, fraudsters had stolen $12 million in unemployment claims as of September.

In Rhode Island, fraudsters had stolen $12 million in unemployment claims as of September.
A sign promoting social distancing at the entrance to the Cliff Walk on May 09, 2020 in Newport, Rhode Island. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Source: WPRI.com

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South Dakota Labor Secretary Marcia Hultman said in April that roughly a quarter of unemployment applications had taken "longer than normal" due to application errors or other issues.

South Dakota Labor Secretary Marcia Hultman said in April that roughly a quarter of unemployment applications had taken "longer than normal" due to application errors or other issues.
Andom Yosef, 38, who works at Smithfield Foods pork processing plant in South Dakota, one of the country's largest known coronavirus clusters. KEREM YUCEL/AFP via Getty Images

Source: Argus Leader

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Tennessee's unemployment system experienced a glitch in July that caused 8,000 delays in weekly benefits.

Tennessee's unemployment system experienced a glitch in July that caused 8,000 delays in weekly benefits.
Tennessee Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey has her temperature taken by Scott Wyatt, left, of the Tennessee Department of Health as Piercey arrives for a news conference concerning the state's response to the coronavirus on Monday, March 16, 2020, in Nashville. Mark Humphrey/AP

Source: Tennessean

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The Texas Workforce Commission, the state agency responsible for paying unemployment, is investigating 233 instances of schemes to steal recipients' personal information.

The Texas Workforce Commission, the state agency responsible for paying unemployment, is investigating 233 instances of schemes to steal recipients' personal information.
Members of the Texas Army and Air National Guard run a COVID-19 testing site at Paul Quinn College in Dallas, Texas on July 29, 2020. BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP via Getty Images

Source: Dallas News

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Two laid-off workers in Washington sued the state's Employment Security Department in June after weeks of delays in getting jobless benefits.

Two laid-off workers in Washington sued the state's Employment Security Department in June after weeks of delays in getting jobless benefits.
Emily Scully, whose family owns Shultzys Bar and Grill, stains trim around the windows on March 24, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. Karen Ducey/Getty Images
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Thousands in West Virginia waited more than a month to get unemployment benefits due to problems with fraudulent claims.

Thousands in West Virginia waited more than a month to get unemployment benefits due to problems with fraudulent claims.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Source: Charleston Gazette-Mail

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Wisconsin had a backlog of 141,000 people waiting on unemployment benefits as of mid-July.

Wisconsin had a backlog of 141,000 people waiting on unemployment benefits as of mid-July.
The tables were removed from a Dunkin amid the coronavirus pandemic in Baraboo, Wisconsin, on March 21, 2020. Rebecca Harrington/Business Insider

Source: ABC-KSTP

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Wyoming's department of workforce services said a technical problem with the state's unemployment system had led to delays.

Wyoming's department of workforce services said a technical problem with the state's unemployment system had led to delays.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming William Campbell/Getty Images
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