State unemployment offices are struggling to meet demand : Planet Money State unemployment offices have been slammed, as 36 million Americans have lost their jobs. And now individuals and the U.S. economy are depending on these often underfunded operations to step up.
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Waiting For A Check

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Waiting For A Check

Waiting For A Check

Waiting For A Check

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Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images
BROOKLYN, NY - MAY 8: Citizens wearing protective masks form lines to receive free food from a food pantry. As unemployment claims continue to increase in New York City, the lines for free food continue to grow. (Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)
Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

Congress passed the $2.2 trillion CARES Act in March. A big part of that bill was expanding unemployment benefits. Congress wanted to make sure that people furloughed or laid off by companies all over America continued to receive some kind of income.

Benefit money is funneled to people through state unemployment offices. But many of those offices run on shoestring budgets. They often have outdated computer systems. Many are thinly staffed, with just a few dozen employees. And over the last decade, as the unemployment numbers fell week after week during the boom, many of these unemployment offices' budgets were cut and cut and cut.

Today, suddenly, many of these little operations have been buried under a mountain of benefit claims. Their workload has gone off the charts, as 36 million Americans apply for unemployment. The result is that many workers in many parts of the country still haven't gotten a check from the government. That's bad for them, as they're struggling to feed their families and keep a roof over their heads. And it's bad for the economy, as it's stopping money from flowing through the system and keeping retailers and service providers paid.

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