DES MOINES — Iowa workers received a double dose of bad news Thursday as claims for unemployment relief again surged and Gov. Kim Reynolds ordered many business to stay closed weeks longer.
In extending Iowa’s public health emergency, Reynolds ordered restaurants, bars, casinos and myriad other businesses to stay closed at least until April 30. Violations of the order are simple misdemeanors.
Reynolds said her 104-section order carries much of the same weight as a shelter-at-home directive in seeking to keep Iowans from gathering in groups of more than 10 and maintaining social-distancing and hygiene recommendations.
“In essence we’ve put a lot of the measures into place. I’ve just done it in an incremental fashion, and I’ve done it based on data,” Reynolds told an afternoon news conference at the state’s emergency operations center.
Her action to keep businesses closed beyond the initial April 16 date came on the day it was announced the number of Iowans seeking unemployment benefits topped 100,000 in two weeks.
Initial claims in Iowa reported by the U.S. Department of Labor, filed between Sunday and Saturday of last week, hit a record 58,453. There were 55,963 initial claims by individuals who work and live in Iowa, and 2,490 claims by individuals who work in Iowa and live out of state.
Iowa Workforce Development officials report a total of $13,724,986 of unemployment benefits were paid for the week ending March 27. The number of continuing weekly unemployment claims is 54,461.
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The breakdown of claims filed by economic sectors showed the most came from accommodation and food services — 12,519. That was followed by health care and social assistance (7,490), manufacturing (7,168), retail trade (5,888) and other services (3,780).
The governor’s new emergency proclamation extends her initial March 17 order that restricted bars, restaurants, fitness centers, adult day cares, casinos and many retail stores, prohibited gatherings of more than 10 and continued to ban non-essential and elective surgeries.
Bars and restaurants are allowed to provide carryout or delivery of alcoholic beverages and the governor authorized the sale of mixed drinks and cocktails for carryout or delivery.
The new order extends and expands previously granted regulatory relief and other response measures until April 30.
The order imposing restrictions on restaurants, bars, fitness centers, adult day cares and casinos was expanded March 22 to include salons, medical spas, barbershops, tattoo parlors, tanning facilities massage therapy establishments and swimming pools.
And the list of retail business closures was expanded to include bookstores, clothing and shoes stores, jewelry, luggage, cosmetic, perfume and beauty supply stores, florists, furniture and home furnishing outlets.
Iowa’s 100,343 jobless claims the past two weeks came as the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits doubled to about 6.6 million, according to the federal labor agency.
Thursday’s report topped last week’s numbers when 41,890 Iowans filed for weekly unemployment benefits totaling $10,674,712.
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The maximum amount of state unemployment benefits a laid-off Iowan who qualifies can receive varies based on how many dependents a claimant has. For a claimant with four dependents, the maximum is $591 per week; for a claimant with no dependents, the maximum weekly benefit is $481.
Also, a $2.2 trillion federally enacted economic rescue package will provide idled Iowa workers unemployment benefits of $600 per week.
The maximum number of weeks a claimant is eligible for state benefits is 26 weeks, the agency said. But if a claimant is working part-time and reporting wages, the number of weeks is extended.
Affected Iowans are urged to visit www.IowaWorkforceDevelopment.gov to file claims and see updated information on the federal CARES Act.
State unemployment officials say they continue to receive an unprecedented level of calls.
“We know waits of more than 15 minutes may occur. However, we are answering almost 80 percent of these calls, so remain on the line and we should get to your call prior to 4:30 p.m.,” according to a news release. “You can also send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We have been successful in answering most emails within 24 hours.”
Comments: (515) 243-7220; email@example.com
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