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State paid out $55 million in unemployment last week

State paid out $55 million in unemployment last week

Restaurants, bars open as Montana lifts more virus closures

Server Jane Goodridge fills a coffee order Monday for a customer at the McCormick Cafe in Billings. Restaurants, bars, brewpubs and casinos were able to reopen earlier this month with restrictions as the state lifted closure orders imposed over the coronavirus.

The state labor department said Monday it issued an additional $55 million in unemployment payments last week, figures that include both regular unemployment insurance benefits as well as programs specific to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“These benefits continue to provide stability to our families and communities as we move through the phases of reopening,” Acting Commissioner Brenda Nordlund said in a press release.

While more than 96,000 Montanans have filed for unemployment this year, the number of people filing new unemployment claims dropped last week to 541, according to numbers from the labor department. The number of new weekly filings hasn't been below 2,800 since mid-March, and remained above 10,000 for five weeks straight before starting to fall as some restrictions were lifted. The peak for filings in a one-week period was 19,887.

At the end of April, Gov. Steve Bullock lifted a stay-at-home order and allowed retail operations that had been shuttered to operate at limited capacity. In early May, restaurants, bars, breweries and other places were also allowed to open at half-capacity, and by May 15 some gyms and theaters could also open.

The number of payment requests also dropped last week, from 51,954 the week prior to 33,482. Payment requests numbers do not directly represent people, as a single person could make more than one request.

Also Monday, Bullock's office announced the delivery of of 500,000 N-95 masks from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

That brings the state's stockpile to more than 800,00 KN-95 masks, 220,000 surgical masks, 97,000 face shields, 240,000 gloves and 60,000 gowns.

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