As Unemployment Surges in N.H., An Update On Changes To Benefits | New Hampshire Public Radio

As Unemployment Surges in N.H., An Update On Changes To Benefits

Mar 31, 2020

Credit Mediaweek via Flickr CC

New Hampshire continues to see unpredecented claims for unemployment benefits, as non-essential businesses across the state have been forced to close until May 4 in response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The federal coronavirus stimulus package, known as the CARES Act, includes funding that will provide a boost to those seeking assistance while out of work.

Sign up for our email newsletter to get the latest on coronavirus in New Hampshire 

We'll talk with Rich Lavers, deputy commissioner of New Hampshire's Employment Security office, about these changes, what they mean for you, and help to answer your unemployment questions. 

Air date: Tuesday, March 31, 2020 from 10-11 a.m.

Credit Sara Plourde, NHPR

GUESTS:

Transcript

  This is a machine generated transcript and may contain errors.

Laura Knoy:
Granite Staters, who suddenly found themselves without work due to the coronavirus, received some welcome news yesterday. The state and federal government have increased unemployment benefits and have eased the requirement to access those benefits. This hour on the exchange, as we continue our focus on the economy, we find out more about helping the newly unemployed. And we welcome your questions. Let's hear your stories, your questions about how this giant economic dislocation is affecting you and your job. With us for the hour is Richard Lavers. He's deputy commissioner for the State Department of Employment Security and Deputy Commissioner Lavers. Welcome back. Thank you for being generous with your time.

Rich Lavers:
Hey, Laura. Thank you. And NHPR for giving us the opportunity to talk with your listeners about the critical services that we're trying to deliver across the Granite State.

Laura Knoy:
Well, and we'll get into the details about the dollars and the requirements and so forth. In a moment. But Deputy Commissioner Lavers just first for us, please. What's the bottom line from the governor's announcement yesterday?

Rich Lavers:
The bottom line is really great news for individuals that have started filing and individuals that are looking to start filing depending on what their work situation is right now. But what we saw with the passage of the Cares Act and the announcement from the governor yesterday is that the federal government is really getting behind New Hampshire with the changes that we implemented early with expanding eligibility with the governors emergency order that he issued on March 17th, where he opened up eligibility across all different types of groups to make sure that individuals would be able to effectively quarantine without a financial disincentive and concern for not having any replacement income. So we saw that with folks that early on with the governor's order, that if you wanted to self-quarantine, if you need to take care of your child because schools are closed or take care of a loved one or you are sick, you were able to file and be found eligible under the governor's order. And he also extended that out to the self-employed. Now, with the passage of the Cares Act, the federal government is getting behind that effort. New Hampshire, fortunately, we are already able to implement those changes, expand eligibility. So we were able to seamlessly pick up where this new eligibility was provided from the federal government as well. The additional benefits that the federal government are kicking in for New Hampshire citizens is great news for everyone. The the impact of this is going to be pretty incredible when you look at the fact that prior to the federal benefits that are now effective with the governor signing the state agreement on Saturday. Prior to that, the maximum weekly benefit amount that an individual could receive in New Hampshire for unemployment benefits was $427 a week. And that was for individuals that had earned forty one thousand five hundred dollars in their four quarter base period or above. So that was the maximum amount.

Rich Lavers:
Now that same individual is going to be able to add on an additional six hundred dollars to that benefit to bring them up to a thousand twenty seven dollars a week.

Laura Knoy:
Wow that's a big change.

Rich Lavers:
Very, very big change. And when we look at we try to put that into perspective for what that means for most folks here in New Hampshire. If you look at what our average private sector weekly wage was prior to the crisis, that was about a thousand eighty six dollars per week as an average private sector weekly wage. You look at the state benefits plus the six hundred that's coming in now, and that's about a 95 percent wage replacement rate. So, you know, Governor Sununu quickly recognized that the unemployment system was the best system to use in order to deliver critical dollars to individuals impacted by this crisis and to deliver them quickly.

Rich Lavers:
I've said before it's one thing to create eligibility. It's another thing to quickly deliver the dollars.

Rich Lavers:
That's what our focus has been on.

Laura Knoy:
Yeah. And I'm sure we'll hear from listeners on that as well. Commissioner Lavers Deputy Commissioner Lavers, how to access these newly increased benefits. A couple of broad questions for you, though, please. How much did the governor's announcement late last week of non-essential businesses change the work of your department handling unemployment claims?

Rich Lavers:
Well, with with the announcement prior to the announcement, we had already seen an influx of claims coming in obviously With with folks that had been impacted and found themselves eligible with the governor's order, the initial order that created the expanded eligibility. We're going to continue to see these numbers increase. And what I can tell you is that although we are limited in what we can provide for new claim information, just the U.S. Department of Labor does put an embargo on that information until Thursday of each week. So that's where you get the job. No release for new claims across the country on each Thursday at 8:30. But what I can tell you is that looking at just say this past Sunday, Laura, we were able to successfully process over 30000 online transactions for individuals accessing the unemployment system. We look at a week prior to that and we were just under 20000 transactions now. And that pace is, as has continued into yesterday where, you know, we processed over 20000 successful transactions compared to the prior Monday. We were under 10000 transactions in place. Interest payments are are going up.

Rich Lavers:
We paid over thirteen thousand five hundred individuals had payments that went out this morning.

Laura Knoy:
Yeah, it's interesting that you said that the federal government holds off on those numbers, those jobless claims numbers until every Thursday because I was going to ask you for an update. So there you go. The governor did say yesterday, Deputy Commissioner Lavers, that New Hampshire had the nation's steepest increase in the number of unemployment claims from the week between March 14th and March 21st. Why is that, Commissioner Lavers?

Rich Lavers:
I think there are two reasons for that, Laura. One is you have to look at where we started. New Hampshire has had one of the lowest unemployment rates nationally for the past four years. We started this at a rate of 2.6 percent. So we started much lower than other states. But we also the second reason, I believe, is the governor's action taken as early as he did on March 17th and expanding eligibility and then making sure to build awareness about that eligibility. And we quickly saw that individuals were paying attention. The need was there. The governor recognized that was able to expand that eligibility. And immediately we were hearing from folks on the new hotline that the governor created, we are processing an increased number of transactions. So I think it's those two reasons. We started at an incredibly low unemployment rate and then New Hampshire is just as impacted as the rest of the country is. And because of our ability to create that eligibility early on, we saw our numbers go up as dramatically as we did. I think it's a positive thing.

Laura Knoy:
Well, as I expected, Deputy Commissioner Lavers, lots of listeners who want to jump in and ask questions again, we invite your comments and questions about new rules, easier restrictions, increased funding for unemployment, new help, basically for the newly unemployed due to the Corona virus and all the economic disruption that we've been hearing about. Our guest for the hour is Richard Lavers. He is the deputy commissioner of New Hampshire Employment Security. And Deputy Commissioner Lavers Beverly wrote us. She says, We have a small gym with two owners and one employee. The owners take a paycheck and both have filed for unemployment. What should we be doing now? Should we contact unemployment for our employee? We were told that the owners could get unemployment due to uncommon circumstances. Is that true? Persistent question, Beverly? I don't know. Deputy Commissioner Lavers, if you can solve, you know, the immediate specific details. But what is there a difference between people who own a business and people who work for business in terms of accessing benefits?

Rich Lavers:
So so right now, Laura, there is not a difference. And that is because of the emergency order that the governor issued and then the CARES Act passed by the federal government to help people with this crisis.

Rich Lavers:
So prior to this crisis, self-employed individuals, business owners, they were not eligible for unemployment compensation. That is a that was a restriction not only in New Hampshire, but that is a restriction nationally. That changed with the governor's emergency order. So that not only were the workers that were impacted by this crisis eligible, regardless of the reason for their partial or complete loss of work. But they the business owners, the self-employed individuals, they were also eligible. So we've been processing a lot of those self-employed claims. The process is taking a little bit longer for the self-employed individuals. And that's simply a matter of of the function functioning of our system. You know, the unemployment system was set up not to process self-employed claims. Self-employed don't report for the most part. Don't report those wages like you did. You like you get from traditional W-2 employment. So we've had to do a lot of work on the system to make it be able to accept process those self-employment claims.

Rich Lavers:
And we have some information up on our website. And in addition to our claim filing schedule, where we ask individuals to come in at certain times based upon the first letter of their last name.

Laura Knoy:
To come into your office.

Rich Lavers:
No, no. Not to come into our office, but to come in our website or to con art or to call the hotline.

Laura Knoy:
I see. Well, I'm glad Beverly wrote, because we have heard from a lot of people on NHPR's survey at NHPR.org. We've been serving our listeners how this crisis is affecting their lives and their work. And we have heard from several people who are self-employed, people like Laurean in Londonderry who says I've had a house cleaning business since 2005. All of my customers cancelled services last week. Laurean says I'm now unemployed, have no savings and can not apply for unemployment because I. Was self-employed, but you're saying, Deputy Commissioner Lavers, that is not true anymore. What is that is ground law.

Rich Lavers:
Laurie, if you are listening, you can apply right now by going to our Web site at W W W Dot NHES dot NH dot gov. This is true for all self-employed Granite Staters that have been impacted by this crisis. You now have eligible eligibility for unemployment benefits. We have some information right on the website, on the home page for self-employed, where we give you a copy of the net earnings statement that we're asking you to fill out to self-test to your earnings from your 2019 federal tax return. If you have not filed that yet, we'd be working with you on your 2018 numbers as to substitute for those. But just to be clear, self-employed individuals became eligible on an emergency basis during this crisis by Governor Sununu's order. Then that continues under the CARES act and the federal legislation that was passed on Friday evening.

Laura Knoy:
Okay, well, I'm glad you wrote in Beverly. And again, you can join us with your comments and questions. And Deputy Commissioner Lavers. Let's take a call. Tom in Bedford is on the line. Hi, Tom. Go ahead. You're on the air. Thanks for being with us.

Caller:
Good morning. Thanks for taking my call.

Laura Knoy:
Sure.

Caller:
Name is Tom Bouchet and I'm the CEO and owner of Great New Hampshire Restaurants, which includes T-Bone b.j.'s, Great West Grill and Copper Door.

Laura Knoy:
Wow, that's a big company.

Caller:
Yeah. You know, at the time, the day before the announcement, we were meeting actually as our leadership team to discuss how we were going to handle the different sales the week before we were ordered to close. We were down 20 percent. And then, of course, when the order came out, starting on St. Patrick's Day, we were down. We've been down between 80 and 90 percent, depending on which location you're talking about, because we're only limited to doing takeout. So it's been incredibly challenging. We we we've laid off 600 out of our 700 employees. And my heart breaks for them. But that being said, and just listening to the deputy commissioner, we are aware of the help that's coming from them, not only in the form of unemployment, but, of course, the individual checks that President Trump announced that they'll be getting this week.

Laura Knoy:
So that Tom. Yeah. Have you told your 600 employees he had to lay off and. Oh, my gosh, that's so many people. Have you told them to apply for unemployment insurance? Because it sounds like it's pretty generous, right?

Caller:
We have we we actually we actually jumped all over that. We have a Facebook page, private group dates that we are able to communicate with. We've had it up for a couple of years. But during this crisis, it's been invaluable to us to be able to communicate with them and we help them navigate as best as we could. You know, because for I'd say virtually all of them. This is the first time they've ever had to file. And so it's been been challenging for them. I know that there was some hiccup early on with the Web site just not being able to handle the volume. And I'm not surprised that that at all. I don't think they would would ever thought there'll be this many cases coming in. And I'm sure that they will continue to be cases that come in. I do have a question for the deputy commissioner, though. Sure. Go ahead. Tom. Talked about you talked about health quarantining themselves or taking care of families that they can collect unemployment. So how how does that work mechanically? Is it is it just that they simply put that in their unemployment request or is that is it a doc that doesn't give them some kind of written notification?

Laura Knoy:
Yeah. How much documentation do you have to have for the reasons that you are filing for this? Tom, thank you for calling in. Deputy Commissioner Lavers.

Rich Lavers:
Yeah, that's a great point. I'm glad Tom brought that up. We realized early on that with these these new groups of eligibility that we needed to roll it out in a way that was going to be able to be be implemented quickly. So obviously, with our offices being closed to the public so that we can better protect our own staff that are processing these claims, because people do forget that although you are able to go online and file your claim and do pretty much everything through the help of technology, that it's really the people behind that process, the hardworking, dedicated state employees here at the Department of Employment Security, it's the people that make the process. So we need to protect them as much as we can. So these benefits can continue to go out. So what we've done is for those types of reasons for being able to file for unemployment, we are not requiring a doctor's note. We are acquiring the individual to self attest to the particular reason why they are out right now and unable to work. And we are reviewing each of those as they come in. Information then goes out to the employer about that claim. And then employers have been really good about returning that information as quickly as possible. We've been able to get payments out the door because of that process quicker than we had originally hoped. And we had originally hoped to have the first COVID 19 related payments that were going to go out as of last Wednesday. We're actually able to get those out into bank accounts on Tuesday. So where we understand that, you know, in an ideal world, we would be requiring more documentation regarding someone who is quarantining or needing to take care of a child. But I don't think right now with the extent of this crisis and the importance of getting these dollars out as quickly as possible, not only for the individuals, but New Hampshire's economy in general, to be able to weather this crisis, that we have to be careful in how we what processes we create, that we don't create roadblocks for getting these critical dollars out.

Laura Knoy:
So there's not that much documentation, it sounds like, that is required right now to file for this.

Rich Lavers:
There is not. You go online, you file the claim. Each and every claim is subject to review by staff here at the department. Obviously, we go through that particular types of eligibility and then that's also subject to audit and review once we're able to start focusing on on that as well. But we know how widespread the impact is. So the the need for us to require extensive documentation regarding someone being wanting to self-quarantine.

Rich Lavers:
I think would be would would undermine our efforts to try to encourage effective quarantining and remove those financial barriers.

Laura Knoy:
And Deputy Commissioner Lavers, you've mentioned a couple times. Employment securities Web site, I want to let listeners know that we have links to the Web site and the phone number at our Web site, NHPR dot org Slash Exchange.

Laura Knoy:
So coming up, a lot more of your questions and comments. Tom, thank you for that one. Good luck to you and your employees. Also, Deputy Commissioner Lavers, I want to ask you after our break about how people who don't have good Internet access or no Internet access are still getting help with this unemployment insurance. That's all that's coming up. Stay with us. This is the exchange on NHPR.

Laura Knoy:
Laura Knoy. today the economic effects of the Coronavirus pandemic here in the Granite State. It's a two hour special. And this hour we're talking about new unemployment benefits with the deputy commissioner of New Hampshire Employment Security, Richard Lavers. And we've been hearing from you your questions and comments about how these new benefits work, who they are available to. And Deputy Commissioner Lavers, right back to our listeners. Jim is calling in from Manchester. Hi, Jim. You're on the air.

Caller:
Hi. Thank you.

Laura Knoy:
Go ahead Jim.

Caller:
Thank you for being on and giving us show.

Caller:
I am an attorney and I'm getting lots of calls, but I don't know the answer because the new rules have changed the old rules. You don't have to wait a week and you don't have to be looking for a job. But I have somebody who said they were laid off. That's going to be coming back to work. They have some sick leave and that they would like to save. But when they come back to work and they have some vacation time, they would like to save when they come back to work. And they were told that, like the old rules, they have to use the sick leave in their vacation leave exhausted that before they could apply for unemployment compensation. That later.

Laura Knoy:
Oh, that's interesting. OK, Jim, thanks for the call.

Rich Lavers:
And so we were part of this is outside of employment security. And there are requirements from the New Hampshire Department of Labor on policies that employers need to have in place with their employees, written policies regarding how paid time off is used as a time of a separation for purposes of filing for unemployment. It's very simple, though, if the individual is not going to be utilizing any of their paid time off, in most cases, that's more advantageous for the individual to use that paid time off through their employer as it's going to provide a higher wage replacement rate. But if they're not utilizing that in their hours have been reduced, then they are eligible for an unemployment benefit. We obviously we ask questions of the individual when they're filing that new claim, whether or not they are going to continue to work part time hours, whether or not they're going to continue to have earnings and whether or not they expect to be receiving any payouts from their employer. So individuals are required to report that to us at the time of initial claim. And then if they receive any earnings and provide any services during the weeks of unemployment, again, we ask that question on each weekly claim and the individual is self attesting to that information. And then we're able to check that information with rate wage records that are filed here at the department to verify that individuals are being accurate with what they're telling us about their earnings so that they're not getting any more than they are eligible for. And to the extent we can protect the trust fund and preserve those dollars for people that need it the most are we are doing that and we'll continue to do that.

Laura Knoy:
So you can kind of cross-check their deputy commissioner Lavers that. So, yes, that sounds like.

Rich Lavers:
And that's and that's an automated process that we are constantly reviewing information on our wage records and cross matching that against benefit claims to make sure that individuals, to the extent that they're eligible, that they're not receiving more of a benefit than they should be receiving if they are currently working part time hours or working full time hours and not telling us about that. And at the end of the day, all of those wage records are available to employment security. We have all of that information. And if that hasn't been reported to us, an individual will be getting a call from us and we will be asking them about that. So the lesson there is reported as soon as you are aware that you're going to be receiving any earnings.

Laura Knoy:
Well, I'm glad you mentioned that because these benefits are generous and I wanted to ask you what mechanisms you have in place to prevent fraud? Or is that just not your main concern right now? Deputy Commissioner Lavers?

Rich Lavers:
There's there's a temptation not to be worried about fraud. Right. Laura in a situation like this, you see the hardship that people are going through. And the inclination tends to be just to pay, pay, pay. We we have staff that have been through recessions before. Nothing like this, obviously, that we're currently seeing. But we've we've seen the fraud that does occur and the attempts at scams that have occurred with individuals trying to take advantage of what they might see as some easy money. We do know and a change that we've seen from our last recession to right now is that we've had a lot of instances of mass identity theft. Right. With a lot of big organizations who who people have trusted with their information over the years. Those organizations have had security breaches and their identities have been stolen. We're being very cognizant of that going forward. We have mechanisms in place so that we are always verifying the Social Security number that is associated with an individual's claim. That is a verification process that happens real time with the Social Security Administration. We have tools in place so that claims are not allowed to be filed in large groups from a single IP address that claims are not able to be filed from foreign IP addresses again, to guard against that abuse from individuals outside of this country trying to take advantage of these new benefits. And then the wait until wage records that we have, I'm aware, able to review and verify the wages that an individual has reported to us for for purposes of W-2 employment. And it's those wage records that have been reviewed and verified that are being used to determine someone's benefit amount.

Laura Knoy:
That's interesting. So there's the typical fraud that you might think of, of somebody saying, wow, these benefits are pretty generous. Let me see if I can get a few extra dollars. But then there's another type of fraud that you just described to us, Deputy Commissioner Lavers, where someone steals someone else's identity and then uses that identity to file for unemployment insurance under that other person's name.

Laura Knoy:
I had not thought about that. You do hear about that with income taxes, people sort of getting other people's income tax, income tax benefits and so forth. So it sounds like you're on it. How much of that are you seeing, if any, at this point? Deputy Commissioner Lavers?

Rich Lavers:
Fortunately, right now, law, we're not seeing any of that. We have started a conversation with our partners at the Attorney General's office in their Consumer Protection Bureau. They're gonna be assisting us on getting some messaging out just to make sure people are aware of the types of information that we aren't requesting, ways in which we aren't requesting it. For instance, you will never receive a text message from New Hampshire Employment Security regarding your unemployment claim. So that's what that's an easy takeaway for your listeners. You receive a text message. Has anything to do with your unemployment claim. Just delete that message. The the easiest way to guard against fraud for individuals where they might be receiving a phone call that they don't necessarily trust is from New Hampshire employment security. You know, keep in mind, we are making calls 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on both days of the week. And as we work to try to keep up with this volume so people will get calls at odd times. But I stress to people, if you are unsure as to that call, you don't trust that call. Simply hang up. Simply hang up and call back the hotline at 271, 7700, and you'll be able to speak with one of our customer service representatives.

Rich Lavers:
And we're trying to process those calls as quickly as possible. But fraud is always something on our mind. State workforce agencies across the country collaborate very well on this law where we share information with regard to fictitious accounts that have been tried to set up or Social Security numbers that have been used in a fraudulent way. So that if this is fraud, that's. Occurring in New Jersey, New Jersey is making sure that other states are aware of that, because as soon as that is that individual that's trying to scam the New Jersey system, as soon as they get blocked in New Jersey, they're going to go looking for another target. So we're trying to make sure that even with a high volume, that we're being mindful and cognizant of the fact that in in times like these, we're going to see higher fraud as well. And we need to watch out for. We need to prevent it. And we need to kind of at times put in keep processes in place so that we're not just focus on paying the benefits.

Laura Knoy:
Well, and again, if folks miss that phone number that you just gave. Deputy Commissioner Lavers, it's all on our Web site, NHPR dot org Slash Exchange. Check out today's Web post for that information. And Deputy Commissioner Lavers got a couple e-mails from people who are still working part time but want to know about that status. So let me read both of them and then see what you think. Ray in Nashua writes, I lost part time work due to the coronavirus, but I'm still working full time at an essential business. So I have experienced a loss of income. Do I qualify for New Hampshire unemployment? And then Ann Marie has a similar question. If there isn't enough work for employees because of the slow down of work due to COVID-19, but a company only needs to reduce hours versus layoff, how are salaried employees handled? So both of these folks, you know, working part time. Ray says he's working full time, but he had a part time job as well. Ann Marie losing some hours, but still working. How does the system handle those different situations, Deputy Commissioner Lavers?

Rich Lavers:
Yeah. So those are both great examples. Laura and you. Some folks contend to think, oh, it's unemployment benefits, you're either eligible for them or you're not. And it's not that easy. Right. So without with our first caller that had lost their saw a reduction in his part time employment, but has continued to keep his full time employment first. That's great that he's been able to keep his full time employment. Obviously, the more people that are able to do that while still complying with the governor's stay at home order and his essential business list, that's that's great because obviously continuing to receive that income versus a portion of that income in the form of an unemployment benefit is better for everybody. Individuals that continue to work full time are not eligible for unemployment for a person that does see a reduction in hours. It doesn't need to be a complete elimination of hours, Laura. It just needs to be a partial reduction. As long as there is a partial reduction in work and a reduction in earnings. Then the individual is eligible. Whether or not they're going to qualify for a benefit amount, though, depends upon how much they are currently earning. So I so. So the way that the work it works with the earnings themselves through New Hampshire allows an individual to have part time work, part time earnings while they collect unemployment. The safeguard there, though, is that an individual is only allowed to earn 30 percent of their weekly benefit amount. So if someone had a weekly benefit amount of, say, the maximum, about a month before the federal benefits kicked in a four hundred and twenty seven dollars a week, they'd be able to earn about one hundred and eighty six dollars a week in earnings before there was any penalty. Then for every dollar above the hundred eighty six that they earned, it would actually reduce their benefit amount. Dollar for dollar. So there is we do allow some earnings. It's that 30 percent threshold of your weekly benefit amount. So depending on how much you continue to earn, it might reduce or eliminate what your weekly benefit amount would have been for that week.

Laura Knoy:
Ok. And I hope that's helpful for those listeners. And again, the phone number and the Web site are on our Web site, NHPR dot org Slash Exchange. It's really interesting to hear about all these different work situations that our listeners find themselves in and out. Let's go to Jennifer in Wilmont. Go ahead, Jennifer. You're on the air. Thanks for being with us.

Caller:
Hi, thanks for taking my call. I was laid off in January. Do I am I eligible for this extra six hundred benefits and also my benefits will end in June. Am I right? It will be extended to this form in my mind.

Laura Knoy:
Oh, interesting. So laid off for non-COVID related reasons. Jennifer wondering.

Caller:
Yeah. Still not able to get work because a lot of the positions that I'm applying for on hold.

Laura Knoy:
Oh, absolutely. Sure. Sure. Everybody's kind of clamping down and waiting to see what happens. Thank you for the call. Deputy Commissioner Lavers, what do you think?

Rich Lavers:
So so again, Laura, you see how complicated the individual circuit?

Laura Knoy:
Absolutely.

Rich Lavers:
So so good news on both of those issues first. Yes. You would qualify for the additional six hundred dollars a week that came through with the Cares Act. So that will be added to your weekly benefit amount. It will be in your that single check. It will not be in a second check or be in that same direct deposit. Those will start off. Folks can expect to start seeing that additional six hundred dollars. They'll be effective for this current week that we are in. So because Governor Sununu signed the state agreement on Saturday and was able to return that as quickly as was allowed by the federal government. Individuals will see that additional six hundred dollars for this week. Now, in terms of when the dollars are actually in the check, we started implementing the changes in our system prior to the passage of the federal law in in in anticipation that these were the changes that that were we were going to see. So we are ahead of the curve there. And we expect that with the week ending April 11th. So our our benefit weeks run from Sunday to Saturday, the week of the week ending April 11th. But the checks that pay for that week go out right around April 14th. And folks can expect to see the six hundred dollars for this current week that we're in. And if they continue to file and need benefits during the week of April 11th, that six hundred dollars would be in that week as well. In the six hundred dollars will continue for every week of unemployment through July 30 1st of this year. And that's 100 percent federal.

Laura Knoy:
Jennifer doesn't need to reapply in this current situation. That's going to automatically come to her, even though her layoff was not Corona virus related.

Rich Lavers:
Correct. So it applies to people that are claiming right now that started claiming prior to the the the crisis. So all she needs to do is continue to file her weekly claims. People can start filing those weekly claims each week on Sunday through that next Saturday. And you're always claiming for that prior week of unemployment. So with her other question, though, with her exhausting her benefits from having started filing in January with the changes that were also included in the cares Act, so exhausted. So those folks that would exhaust their 26 weeks of benefits. Those folks are able to start collecting right away again without having to wait to the end of their benefit year and having that delay and being able to access benefits again, recognition on the federal level that the ability of individuals to find work and not exhaust benefits is very much limited right now. And they wanted to make sure that there were going to be benefits available in those situations for folks that found themselves collecting prior to the crisis.

Laura Knoy:
Interesting. OK. Jennifer, really glad you called. That's an important point to clarify. Let's take another call. This is Mark in Sandwich. Hi, Mark. Go ahead. You're on the air. Welcome.

Caller:
Hi. I don't know what my situation is, actually. I've been running an antique business for 52 years. It's sort of the high end business deal. A lot with museums and exhibiting it shows around the country. All the shows that I was scheduled to do between early March and. June have now been cancel.

Caller:
And we have two full time employees to part time employees. I am continuing to pay them even though the about the work is very limited.

Caller:
And. I have not. Had a profit. In more than two of the last 10 years, even though during the 80s and 90s, we were pulling in well over a million a year.

Laura Knoy:
Wow.

Caller:
And I I have no idea what kinds of options are open to me.

Laura Knoy:
Well, Mark, I wonder, we've heard from a lot of businesses this hour and our first hour who are no breaks our hearts to do it, but they are temporarily laying off their employees so they can at least access these generous unemployment benefits. Have you thought about doing that, Mark?

Caller:
Well, I've thought about doing it for my employees, but what do we do for myself?

Laura Knoy:
Well, and Deputy Commissioner Lavers, I think you said earlier that self-employed people or business owners like Mark in Sandwich can also apply for unemployment. Isn't that right? Deputy Commissioner Lavers.

Rich Lavers:
That is right. I encourage Mark to go to our Web site and he can he can file his initial claim for benefits and he'll see right on the home page there law that there's information specifically for the self-employed training to manage expectations of what we need from them with our net earnings form that we need those folks to fill out. If they don't fill it out right then and then return it to the email address that's provided they do get it provided to them upon the filing of their initial claim. So I'd encourage them to the extent that he a/c seeing a reduction in his jobs coming up in the work that he was expecting.

Rich Lavers:
He certainly qualifies for the expanded unemployment that we are looking at right now. And I'd encourage him to get on our Web site. And to the extent he has any difficulty with our Web site, our hotline law at 2 7 1 seventy seven hundred is a resource we can answer any questions that folks have. I will say that it is difficult with the volume of calls that we've been seeing come into that hotline of about 5000 calls a day.

Rich Lavers:
We've received over 43000 calls since March 17th that there are times during the day where it is busy, where folks are going to have to wait for a significant amount of time in order to be able to talk with a court, with a representative from the department. So to the extent people can go on to the Web site and get that claim done on the Web site, it is a much faster process. We have removed some of the hurdles that we're slowing folks down early on in the claim filing process and that that application is now working incredibly well. New Hampshire has been able to keep that Web site standing up throughout this entire crisis. And I can't stress to you, Laura, the importance of that and also the fact that that is not true for most of the other states in the country. I'm sure folks have read about other system, other unemployment systems in other states, their Web sites crashing. They're not able to take claims electronically. So you actually have people lining up to file claims, even though that's the last thing we want people doing right now that.

Laura Knoy:
They want those checks.

Rich Lavers:
And that has not happened in New Hampshire. People might have. And I appreciate it. And I understand the frustration with a Web site that initially was slower than people would have liked. I was constantly going into it and testing the performance of the Web site all day, all night to see, OK, this is what they've told me for improvements. Are people really experiencing that? And what I can tell you right now, the experience is pretty quick with some of the phases of the process that we've removed because of the crisis. We're asking for a minimal amount of information in order to create your account. You're then able to go right in, read that information that you see on the screens as you go. So it's important information or else we wouldn't put it up there and it will help you as you file that claim. And then each week, individuals going back in and filing an additional claim.

Rich Lavers:
So we're trying to scale up and be ready for this increased volume.

Laura Knoy:
Well, Mark in Sandwich. I hope that's helpful. And good luck to you. Coming up, more of your questions with the deputy commissioner of New Hampshire Employment Security. Keep it right here. This is the exchange on NHPR.

Laura Knoy:
This is the exchange, I'm Laura Knoy. tomorrow on our show. Dramatic changes in the criminal justice system due to the coronavirus pandemic. That's Wednesday morning live at 9:00. Peter Biello will be your host. Today. New help for the newly unemployed. The governor announced just yesterday more aid and fewer restrictions for those who find themselves suddenly without pay due to the business slowdowns and shutdowns that we're seeing. We're learning more this hour with the deputy commissioner of New Hampshire Employment Security, Richard Lavers. And we've been hearing a lot from you. And Deputy Commissioner Lavers, lots more calls. We have Steve in New London who's on the air. Welcome, Steve. Thank you for being with us.

Caller:
Hi. Thanks for taking my call.

Laura Knoy:
Sure.

Caller:
I explained to the screener that I like collective security, but I still work full time. And previously I had the impression that I couldn't collect unemployment when I get laid off in the summer or whatnot. Am I now able to collect unemployment? And also I've been periodically getting a side job. Not not every week, but occasionally I get side job from contractors and people in neighborhood, whatnot. It's kind of like my money comes in here and there have some Social Security, full time is gone. And then occasionally I get periodic jobs from contractors. So what I do.

Laura Knoy:
Yeah. Well, Steven, everybody's situation is so different and so interesting. So Deputy Commissioner Lavers, he gets Social Security, but was also working full time, full time work dried up. So sounds like he's eligible, right?

Rich Lavers:
He is. Laura and I would I would encourage him, obviously, to review the Social Security Administration guidelines right now on. I know they've changed the guidelines in terms of earnings and other benefits that recipients are able to receive without impacting their there. So their Social Security benefit. But on the on the on the unemployment insurance side, trying to stick to things that actually do know about. I can tell them that with the loss of work, you know, the partial or the complete loss of work, whether or not it's seasonal or not, I have I have a inclination that it probably has a lot to do with our current crisis. So he certainly would appear to qualify for benefits. I would encourage him to get on our Web site and file. And he can go into that hotline number and we'll help him walk through the process regarding that. Regarding the odd jobs that he reference, that he picks up, that that is great. We encourage that again. New Hampshire allows individuals to have part time work and part time earnings and still collecting unemployment benefit. What I would caution him is, is to make sure each week that he's going to be providing some of those jobs that he is answering those questions come completely accurately and truthfully on his continued claim to let us know, OK, what are you going to be doing this week for work? How many hours? What do you anticipate for earnings? When do you expect to receive those earnings? So those are questions that we ask on that continued claim form that people need to go in and file each week of continued unemployment. Just folks to to be honest there. To the extent that you are still eligible for a benefit, we're going to work hard to make sure you still get it. But we need to know what the work and earnings are that you are doing, because if you don't tell us at the very beginning, unfortunately, we're going to be finding out down the road. And those phone calls are never comfortable.

Laura Knoy:
So hang on. So you have to file every Sunday to just check in, first of all, but also to say what you expect to earn in odd jobs that week.

Rich Lavers:
So for so the claim filing legal or it was starts on Sunday, goes Sunday to Saturday. Right. And you're filing for that prior week of unemployment.

Laura Knoy:
Oh, I see. For the prior week. It's that prior week.

Rich Lavers:
So we do ask whether or not you had earnings for that prior week. But we also ask what we want to know what you did for work that prior week, if you had any. But we also want to know what you're going to be doing for going forward as well.

Laura Knoy:
Yeah, sometimes you don't know, though. Imagine Steve. You know, he said he sort of picks up of job odd jobs here and there and whatnot to quote him. So he might not know on Sunday if he was going to get an odd job on Friday.

Rich Lavers:
And we just want him to answer accurately. We we understand with the nature of that type of work that you're not going to know far in advance. So just. Answering those questions accurately, and as long as someone answers those questions accurately and honestly, they will never have a problem with employment security.

Laura Knoy:
Let's take another call. This is Matt in Durham. Hi, Matt. You're on the exchange.

Laura Knoy:
Welcome. Matt are you there. Good morning.

Laura Knoy:
Oh, OK. Sounds like we lost Matt. Sorry about that, Matt, but I want to remind Matt and everybody that if you do have questions, you can go to our Web site. It's an exchange at an excuse me, NHPR dot org slash exchange. And we've got links to the phone number and the Web site of New Hampshire Employment Security. Speaking of seasonal work, we got this e-mail from Cammy who says, I'm 58. My husband is 61. Cammy says, I generally work seasonally April to October to supplement our family income. I don't work at the same business every year. I can't work this spring because my husband and I have risk factors for COVID-19. Can I apply for unemployment? Cammy, thank you. I'm guessing there's a fair number of people. Deputy Commissioner Lavers who are in her situation.

Rich Lavers:
Yeah. So we would encourage those individuals to file as well. And again, the amount of your weekly benefit amount that you're going to be eligible for is determined from the earnings that you had in your for four quarters of your base period. So we look back 15 months and we look at the first 12 months of of that time period to look at what your total earnings were. So in order to determine whether or not you qualify for a $400 a week or two hundred dollars a week, we look back to those earnings. And as long as someone has a qualifying reason for filing right now related to COVID-19 , they're going to they're going to qualify for benefits. And in the amount of that benefit is going to be determined by those earnings and then they're going to get that UI plus payment of six hundred dollars added on to that. As long as they qualify for a weekly benefit amount.

Laura Knoy:
One more call. This is Marcel in Manchester. Hi, Marcel. You're on the air. Go ahead.

Caller:
Hi, my question is I have a friend that's trying to file for unemployment benefits. It's been really difficult for him. All whatsoever in his position was the dishwasher. So he he doesn't he can't have a job right now. That's the thing. If this was anything because everything is takeout now, he's only got one hundred sixty seven dollars a week. That's what was set up for him. But he really needs the money. I have no idea what to do. I filed for unemployment benefits. I helped them file, but still haven't got anything in the mail and it's been several weeks.

Laura Knoy:
Oh, boy. Okay. Marcel, thank you very much for calling in. And go ahead, Deputy Commissioner Lavers.

Rich Lavers:
Yeah. Thanks Marcel for bringing that up. The good news there with the individual that had previously qualified for $167 a week, they're gonna be adding six hundred dollars a week to his benefit. So again, that starts with this week of people filing for this week. Right. They don't file for this week until ah ah ah, week next week. But we expect that the checks that are going to be going out on April 14th, those checks will include payments for not only what the underlying weekly benefit amount was going to be, but that additional six hundred dollars per week that the federal Cares Act now provides.

Rich Lavers:
And so if in terms of additional help that we could provide with that with that individual that Marcel just spoke about, Laura, I'd love to figure out a way if I could speak with the caller off-line directly, I'd love to get some information and make sure that we can connect them with the right people to straighten out whatever issue is delaying that payment.

Laura Knoy:
Well, Marcel, if you're still on hold, we'll have the producers get your information and we'll connect you with Deputy Commissioner Lavers. If you're still listening, Marcel, but no longer on the line. You can either give us a call back or you can go to our Web site, find that phone number. Our website is is excuse me, is X is NHPR dot org Slash Exchange. And my producers are telling me that they will get your number Marcel. So we'll try to make that happen. And good luck to your friend. Certainly there is not a lot of work out there for dishwasher's since restaurants are all take out only just to wrap it up with you. Please, Deputy Commissioner Lavers. How long have you been at the department? I wonder if you've ever seen anything even closely resembling this before.

Rich Lavers:
I've been at the department now just about a decade or so, just about 10 years. And not only have I not seen anything like this. Nobody here at the department has seen anything like this. I have long tenured employees here at the Department of 40 plus years, met an employee that just recently left us with 50 plus years. Nobody has seen a situation like this. Not that the prior recession was easy for the department to handle. It was a it was difficult for a lot of people throughout the state.

Rich Lavers:
But the nature of the the the last recession in this recession with the dramatic spike in unemployment happening all at once really sets this current crisis apart from anything we've seen before.

Laura Knoy:
Well, it has been dramatic. It seems to have changed so quickly in such a short period of time. Deputy Commissioner Lavers, thank you very much for being with us. We really appreciate it.

Rich Lavers:
And Laura, thank you for the time for for us to be on to talk with your listeners. Thank you so much.

Laura Knoy:
That's Richard Lavers again. He's the deputy commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Employment Security and Exchange listeners. Thanks to all of you who filled out our survey about how all of this has affected you. Keep sending us your stories and questions because your input really does help shape our coverage. Go to an NHPR dot org. The exchange is a production of NHPR the engineers, Dan Colgan, the executive producer is Michael Brindley and the senior producer is Ellen Grimm. Our producers are Christina Phillips and Jessica Hunt. Jane Vaughan is our fellow. Our theme music was written by Bob Lord. And I'm Laura Knoy.