Service industry bracing for future: Minnesota sees surge in unemployment benefit filings

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The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development is seeing a surge of applications for unemployment benefits due to COVID-19 closings.

DEED usually sees 40-50 applications an hour for benefits, but by early afternoon Tuesday, staff reported around 2,000 applications an hour.

"We’ve never had a situation where overnight you see such a spike and interest in the program,” DEED Commissioner Steve Grove said.

Grove’s office said residents do not have to lose their job to qualify for new COVID-19 unemployment benefits. Workers who have had their hours “substantially reduced” could qualify.

Learn if you are eligible for new COVID-19 financial benefits from the State of Minnesota at the link here.

The service industry has been hit hard by closings of restaurants, bars and some hair salons due to COVID-19 concerns.

"It’s surreal, it doesn’t feel real," said Landyn Young, a stylist at HAUS salon in the North Loop neighborhood of Minneapolis. "I think it will make a big impact on a lot of people’s lives."

The salon’s owners, which also has two other locations in Minneapolis, decided to help their staff by allowing customers to buy gift cards for future services that go directly to one of the 75 staff members.

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"Our biggest fear is our team and our team’s families,” said co-founder Charlie Backney Love.

DEED said more than 200,000 Minnesotans work in the food, restaurant and bar business, which has been the biggest number of applicants on day-one of the new COVID-19 benefits.

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DEED said they hope to get benefit payments sent out to applicants that qualify in the next week or two.

Unemployment benefits provide temporary partial wage replacement to Minnesota workers who become unemployed through no fault of their own.

Benefits can range up to $740 a week, for up to 26 weeks, according to the state’s website.