State workers under pressure to keep up with soaring unemployment
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Over the last three weeks, almost 17 million workers have filed for unemployment benefits. Businesses across the country have had to close their doors to customers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The incredible surge in unemployment claims is putting a huge amount of pressure on the public service workers processing them, according to their unions.
“It’s strenuous, I mean, you feel like the days fly, but the mental stress when you’re home really hits at that time. It’s heavy,” said Helen Esposito, an unemployment claims processor in New York State.
She’s been in the job for almost 30 years and seen other unemployment spikes, like after 9/11, the Great Recession and Hurricane Sandy.
“If you put all of those situations together and times them by three — this is what we’re looking at,” Esposito said.
Unions that represent public employees say many can’t work from home and some are putting in long hours, including weekends.
Thea Lee, president of the Economic Policy Institute, said the next federal relief package should provide more support to state and local governments.
“If we don’t do that, they will start cutting back, firing people, cutting hours, in the next couple of months,” Lee said. She added that having fewer public service employees doing things like processing unemployment claims, runs the risk of exacerbating the economic crisis for everyone.
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