Minnesota’s unemployment applications rise, create frustration for those waiting on benefits

Close to a quarter of a million Minnesotans have applied for unemployment insurance benefits, according to the state’s department of employment and economic development.

Updated numbers released Monday show the state has received 239,263 applications for unemployment insurance benefits since March 16. That’s more applications than DEED got during the entire year of 2019.

As the numbers continue to rise, people who have already been approved for benefits but have yet to receive a check are concerned that they will get lost in the system.

"We just want answers," said Kristin Schneider, a server from Farmington. "This isn’t our fault. We’re told we would get unemployment pretty much immediately."

Schneider applied for unemployment insurance the same day she was laid off.

"By 7 p.m. that night I had applied and I was approved," she said.

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But after waiting two weeks, Schneider said she hasn’t received a payment.

"It’s scary," she said. "Having a family of five to support and not knowing when I’m going to get that payment that I’ve been told I will get. We’re hanging on by a thread at this point."

Schneider has been unable to reach anyone over the phone for assistance and is instead directed online to her account.

A spokesperson with DEED said about 10 percent of applicants are experiencing issues and that if something is wrong with an application, staff with unemployment insurance will reach out directly to that individual.

Schneider says no one has contacted her.

The process of applying for unemployment is done online, through the state’s website. Commissioner Steve Grove said that’s created a surge of visits to DEED’s website.

To not overburden the system, the state is now asking people to apply on designed days, based on their social security number.

"This is just going to allow us to provide faster, more effective service so far today, it’s already working really well," Grove told reporters Monday. "We’re able to get to people more quickly."

This week, the state expects to start process more applications, after the federal government passed legislation that allows self-employed individuals and independent contractors to apply for unemployment insurance benefits.

Grove said the state is still waiting for guidance on how to apply benefits to those particular groups.