Unemployment claims in the county nearly doubled in the past week alone with 8,983 people filing for unemployment benefits as the county also experiences its largest jump in novel coronavirus cases.
Maryland’s rate also grew twice in size to about 84,000 claims from 42,000 claims filed last week.
The new numbers were released as confirmed cases in Maryland soared past 2,000 Thursday.
The shocking swell in claims once again demonstrates the coronavirus pandemic’s destructive impact on an economy it braked to a halt. More than 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment over the past week, a new record for the most unemployment claims ever filed that was set just last week.
County Executive Steuart Pittman’s senior adviser, Chris Trumbauer, shared the state’s county breakdown of unemployment numbers and said, “Spoiler alert: Next week will be worse.”
Applications for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, also increased last month. County officials reported 939 applications in February, and 2,419 in March.
Any Maryland resident who already receive SNAP or other cash assistance through the Department of Social Services whose case is up for renewal in March, April or May has been granted a six-month automatic renewal, said Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for Health and Human Services Kai Boggess-de Bruin.
“These numbers tell a story no one should ignore,” said Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman wrote on Twitter Thursday morning. “Hard-working people in our county will need help.”
Pittman said he’s committed to using all the tools possible to address the unmet needs of vulnerable residents.
Annapolis resident Darlene Gaffney, 59, has been out of a job since Harry Brown’s Restaurant closed down weeks ago. She said the experience of trying to figure out whether she is eligible to collect unemployment insurance has been extremely stressful.
Though she’s been bartending for nearly a decade, Gaffney has only been with her current employer for a couple of months. She said her hours were cut at her previous job, so she quit to find more stable work.
Now, she’s unsure if the limited time she’s been at Harry Brown’s and the fact that she quit her previous job are going to prevent her from receiving support from the state.
She said she filed for unemployment on March 17, and since then, she has struggled to get clarity on her situation. A state official did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Gaffney’s situation.
“I have no idea the resolution of any of it, and I think that’s unfair," Gaffney said.
She hopes she’ll still have a job at Harry Brown’s when it reopens, but she said she isn’t sure.
“If it goes on for 6 months, I don’t know what will happen,” Gaffney said. “I don’t know how many restaurants will survive.”
On the business side, owners are struggling with how to manage pandemic-related closures with their employees.
SuAnne Martinez, the owner of West Annapolis Artwork and Fine Framing, had to lay off her two part-time employees when she was required to close the nonessential business.
“It’s never good, (but) they saw it coming,” Martinez said. “It wasn’t a surprise when businesses were closing that they weren’t going to have a place to work.”
She tried to provide them with guidance for financial relief during the pandemic, though she isn’t certain whether she’ll be able to rehire the workers. It’s likely she’ll open on an appointment-only basis at first, and try to keep costs at a minimum, she said.
Breaking News Alerts Newsletter
As it happens
Get updates on the coronavirus pandemic and other news as it happens with our free breaking news email alerts.
In order to stay afloat until then, she’s applied for the Small Business Administration disaster loan and is seeking help for her business through other avenues as well.
“I’m not going anywhere, I’ve been in this business for more than 35 years,” Martinez said. “This is what I do. This is what I know.”
In the meantime, Martinez has been spending time with her family and distracting herself from the anxiety by designing an online database for customers to shop directly from local artists.
“It’s been good to have something to do and some way to help and stay in contact with the artists,” Martinez said. “That’s how I’m coping.”
Though the office is closed, Anne Arundel County’s Workforce Development Corporation is still providing services virtually, including one-on-one career coaching, and virtual career development workshops.