Indiana will have to borrow money from federal government to pay unemployment claims

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INDIANAPOLIS — The state’s fund to pay unemployment benefits is now weeks away from running out of money, after a record year of unemployment claims.

Since mid-March, more than 900,000 Hoosiers have filed for benefits with about 250,000 people still receiving those weekly.

“At our current benefit rates, really we’re weeks away probably from borrowing,” said Josh Richardson, Chief of Staff with the Department of Workforce Development.

The account began the year at nearly $900 million, and now it has less than $200 million.

“The claims for benefits just shattered early records in terms of those early weeks and the number of filers we were seeing,” Richardson said. “There was really no relevant comparison.”

Since the pandemic began, more than 900,000 Hoosiers filed for benefits, about 5 times the amount of people who filed all of last year.

“It’s been hard to anticipate anything during this time,” Richardson said. “It’s so different than anything we’ve ever seen before.”

The money going out is more than what’s coming in, meaning the state will have to borrow from the federal government to be able to continue making payments.

“From the unemployed individual side, they should really have no concern about that,” Richardson said. “It’s something that we’ve done before; it should be a pretty seamless transaction.”

How much they borrow depends on how many people stay unemployed. The state is optimistic, seeing the number of new unemployment claims going down nearly every week.

“Those things are going in the right direction,” Richardson said. “Hopefully that buys us a little bit of time. But in any event, it looks like we’re likely to borrow sometime in September.”

Whether federal dollars or state dollars, the goal is to get money into people’s hands. Something Richardson says will happen no matter what.

“Our job as an agency is to try and make sure we provide benefits to anyone who is eligible for them, and I am confident that the procedures are in place, the mechanisms are in place for us to be able to do that,” Richardson said.

The Department of Workforce Development says 80%- 85% percent of people have been able to receive payments within 21 days of filing. They also say the state has borrowed money from the federal government before during the 2008 recession.

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