Unprecedented Number of Unemployment Claims filed in Puerto Rico
Commonwealth Labor Dept. Awaits Federal Guidelines for Increased Benefits
SAN JUAN — The number of people claiming unemployment benefits in Puerto Rico rose to 98,703 Monday, a number that far exceeds the level reached in the aftermath of the historic 2017 hurricane season, Labor Secretary Briseida Torres Reyes confirmed.
The data, which corresponds to the claims filed between March 16 and March 30, implies a dramatic increase when compared with those filed as of March 15, which were only 1,315.
Between September 2017 and February 2018, a total of 84,000 claims were received by the island’s Labor Department.
People who applied for unemployment during the first week of the curfew order could begin receiving their checks this week.
“Check runs are done every two weeks,” Torres Reyes said.
Those who are eligible for the benefit receive from $33 to $190 per week.
Although the federal CARES Act provides a $600 increase to the unemployment benefit amid the coronavirus pandemic, Torres Reyes indicated that federal guidelines have not yet been issued.
“When the federal government provides the guidelines and allocates the funds, the increase will be available,” the official said.
Once the increase takes effect, unemployment recipients could receive weekly benefits that could range from $633 to $790.
The federal law also extended unemployment benefits, which can currently be received for 26 weeks, by 13 weeks. People who are self-employed or are independent contractors may apply for unemployment benefits through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. None of these benefits are available yet.
“We are telling people to be on the lookout for Department announcements,” Torres Reyes said.