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448 unemployment claims filed in Covington County in past week

By: Ora Nelson

According to the Alabama Department of Labor, there have been 448 unemployment insurance claims in Covington County of the state’s almost 78,000 initial unemployment claims in the previous week.

Over 71,000 of those claims are COVID-19 related.

“I think the virus is the reason you’re seeing such an increase in unemployment,” said Rick Clifton, Covington County Economic Development Commission president and CEO. “In fact, Alabama and Covington County were at historic lows in unemployment. Before the virus, most folks who wanted to find a job could find one.”

Although the unemployment rate is down in Alabama from the beginning of the year, the number of claims has gone up dramatically in the past week.

“I think because of the numbers [of people filing for unemployment status], the system [of the unemployment office] can’t handle the volume,” said Clifton. “Pair that with the reduced staff, and it’s no wonder someone told me they were excited to finally get put on hold with a wait-number in the two hundreds.”

“From what I’m hearing, the impact [of the economic response to COVID-19] is going to go through the year and maybe beyond that,’ said Clifton. “It depends on when the economy opens and how people respond to that [the opening].”

Clifton used the example of a restaurant opening for business again.

“Just because a restaurant opens back up, it doesn’t mean that people will go there to eat if they [customers] don’t feel safe being out and about,’ said Clifton. “Also, you have to think of how long it will take for the businesses to get back to fully-staffed and rehire the workers they’ve had to lay off.”

Clifton suspects the impact of the economic response to COVID-19 in Alabama and Covington County will last throughout the year and maybe even longer.

“I can see it being a pretty long time before we see an improvement, but we’ve got to keep following the guidelines and advice we’ve been given,” said Clifton.

“You can’t open up the economy safely until you know everything is under control,” said Clifton.

“It’d be a shame to go through what we have been through and it ends up being for nothing because we opened [the economy and businesses] back up too early.”

“I heard a saying from somewhere that is appropriate for this [situation]: We’ll never know if we’ve over-prepared, but we’d know for sure if we’re underprepared because people will be dying,” said Clifton. “It’s better to err on the side of caution.”