ELKHART -- Vouchers filed for unemployment benefits more than doubled in a week as Hoosiers began reapplying for assistance.
Funding for the federal extensions of jobless payments is flowing again after being shutoff during June and July while Congress wrangled over spending. An estimated 80,000 Indiana residents exhausted their benefits and missed a collective 250,000 payments, according to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.
The state's online system began accepting retroactive vouchers last week and by Monday about 220,000 unemployment claims totaling $54 million in benefits had been submitted, the DWD reported. Sunday, Aug. 1, more than 150,000 vouchers were filed, doubling the 75,000 processed the previous Sunday.
Also, for about 20 minutes Monday, the system was taken down so the high volume of claims could be pushed through to speed the filing process, the DWD said.
Winona Beard, who lost her job in manufacturing, had been worried about being evicted from her apartment and having her car repossessed when her benefits stopped. However, Monday she was able to file seven vouchers.
"It feels great," the Elkhart woman said. "Now I can do something. Pay some bills. Get my stuff out of hock."
The Pierre Moran branch of the Elkhart Public Library has often been overrun on Sundays with out-of-work residents using the computers to apply for their weekly payments but on Sunday the expected crowd never materialized.
Possibly people stayed away because the system was not working and they could not file, said Marcia Vierck, branch librarian.
However, Marc Lotter, spokesman for the DWD, said the state did not experience any disruptions in the system Sunday. He acknowledged the computers were running very slowly but still accepting vouchers.
Numbers of unemployed coming to Pierre Moran on the weekend declined over the time that funding was cut, Vierck said. Now she expects to return to previous levels of 90 to 80 filers on Sundays.
Some U.S. senators refused to appropriate the funding for jobless benefits, contending the weekly checks remove the incentive to search for work. Getting the assistance has not made Beard lazy about looking for a job although, she said, she has met others who have turned down positions because the wage was below what unemployment was paying.
Beard's reply is a firm, "So what?" She said she is willing to take a low-paying job and work hard, believing the raises will follow.
Besides, she noted, "$7.50 looks pretty good right now."