Montana, like all the states, is experiencing record unemployment claims due to the COVID 19 pandemic.

Manager of the Missoula Job Service, Kellyann Deniger, said on Thursday that as of the end of March, the State of Montana office of Unemployment Services has paid out a record number of claims.

“At the end of March we had paid out over $5.5 million in unemployment benefits for one week for people filing for unemployment in the state of Montana,” said Deniger. “The number of claims that we’ve filed in the state of Montana is unprecedented. We’ve never filed this many claims before.”

Deniger said the local job service offices around the state have taken up the task of helping Montanans file for unemployment.

“It’s been a turnaround for the regular services that we offer here at the job service to filing for unemployment claims,” she said. “For instance, we had 350 calls on the previous Monday, and out of those 350 calls, all but two were unemployment related.”

Deniger said people are calling her office who have never filed for unemployment before.

“We’re seeing folks who have never filed for unemployment in their lives,” she said. “It’s been very difficult for them. They’ve see uncertain times not knowing when their next paycheck is going to come in, so it’s been nice to be able to help those folks through the process, assure them that we’re here to help them and if they need anything there’s a local voice that can talk with.”

Deniger said the people who call her office are often very emotional.

“Some of the stories we’re hearing are heart wrenching,” she said. “They are very concerned about feeding their families, they’re very concerned about their employers, they’re concerned about the certainty of their jobs and they’re concerned about catching the COVID 19 virus. There are a lot of emotions that are happening with the people that are filing and most of them are not good. There’s a lot of uncertainty and what we’re here to do try to calm their fears as much as possible and assure them that we’re doing our best to at least get some money into their households so that can put food on the table for them and their family.”

On the Department of Labor homepage, a message reads ‘DLI is experiencing an unprecedented call volume to our unemployment insurance claims processing help line. Unless you have received official notification from Unemployment Insurance that you must call our call center, please search for your answer at dli.mt.gov/employer-covid-19 in order to free up phone lines for folks who are required to call in. If you are out of work or on reduced hours due to COVID-19, we encourage you to submit an unemployment insurance claim. Applicants can submit online at MontanaWorks.gov.