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Montana unemployment site back up after "astronomical" amount of requests

Posted: 6:13 PM, Mar 24, 2020
Updated: 2020-03-24 20:32:04-04

Unemployment benefits are coming to Montanans laid-off due to the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic, despite an influx in requests that temporarily crashed the website to file claims.

As of Tuesday, Brenda Nordlund with the Montana Department of Labor and Industry said the website, Montanaworks.gov was up and running again, but still probably somewhat slow.

“So we’ve had unprecedented numbers, as you know,” said Nordlund.

And Nordlund said the amount of requests was astronomical: over 13,000 claim filings started to overload the website last week.

Gov. Steve Bullock, along with leaders in Yellowstone and other counties, ordered the closure of all dine-in restaurants, bars and casinos along with many various business would be forced to close thier doors to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Thousands of workers in Montana are now without jobs for the foreseeable future.

Montana Works, the portal for workers to access unemployment insurance, became overloaded, according to Nordlund and hit a capacity never seen before.

"We put all of our resources that we could into stabilizing Montana Works.gov," she said. “So a lot of folks got pushed through, even though they did encounter intermittent, recurring frustrations and interruptions in service.“

Many filers were met with a slow and sometime unresponsive webpage.

Nordlund said the tech team worked for 36 hours straight to strengthen the site to streamline and simplify connectivity issues. On Sunday and Monday alone, over 12,000 requests for payment were pushed through.

“I can’t imagine how many are feeling and how frightened they may be, but please know that the UIT and the Department of Labor will bend over backwards to try and serve your needs,“ she said.

If a filer can’t access the site to check or start a claim, Nordlund said the department staff will backdate claims so people don’t lose money.

When asked how many more claims may come into the website in the coming days, Nordlund said she couldn't predict, saying the activity on the website has been "unprecedented."

"Our numbers tick up every day," she said.