The Mississippi Department of Employment Security is encouraging folks who have lost employment due to COVID-19 to file claims online.

More Mississippians applied for unemployment last week as COVID-19 continues ravaging the nation’s economy than any other week recorded by the U.S. Department of Labor since 1987.

The nation saw a record-breaking number of unemployment claims, 5.8 million (not seasonally adjusted) in the week ending March 28 — 30,946 of which were in Mississippi, based on preliminary numbers. The second highest week for claims in the state was 21,215 in September of 2005 following Hurricane Katrina.

Comparing the first two weeks of March to the last two, as more states began restricting the movement of its residents to contain the spread of the virus, unemployment claims surged over 1800 percent across the country and 1700 percent in Mississippi from 2,026 to 36,465.

Because of new federal legislation that boosts unemployment checks by $600 for four months, jobless workers who secure benefits in Mississippi will see their weekly amount more than triple from a maximum of $235 to $835. The exact amount depends on a person’s eligibility and how much they earned at their job.

The Mississippi Department of Employment Security, which administers the benefits funded by employer taxes, is encouraging folks who have lost employment due to COVID-19 to file claims online. The website has glitches, the call centers are inundated, leading to long wait times, and the department has asked any applicants experiencing issues to email

In a Tweet, Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann said the department had hired 70 new contact center employees as calls have surged from 600 to 6,000 per week. “Delays persist,” he wrote on Twitter March 27.

Applicants may also avoid the online application by filling out a downloadable form and emailing it to and avoid the centralized hotline by calling their local WIN Job Center, which they may locate here.

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Anna Wolfe, a native of Tacoma, Wa., is an investigative reporter writing about poverty and economic justice. Before joining the staff at Mississippi Today in September of 2018, Anna worked for three years at Clarion Ledger, Mississippi’s statewide daily newspaper. She also worked as an investigative reporter for the Center for Public Integrity and Jackson Free Press, the capital city’s alternative newsweekly. Anna has received national recognition for her work, including the 2021 Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting, the 2021 Collier Prize for State Government Accountability, the 2021 John Jay/Harry Frank Guggenheim Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting Award, the 2020 Al Neuharth Innovation in Investigative Journalism Award and the February 2020 Sidney Award for reporting on Mississippi’s debtors prisons. She received the National Press Foundation’s 2020 Poverty and Inequality Award. She also received first place in the regional Green Eyeshade Awards in 2021 for Public Service in Online Journalism and 2020 for Business Reporting, and the local Bill Minor Prize for Investigative Journalism in 2019 and 2018 for reporting on unfair medical billing practices and hunger in the Mississippi Delta.