Up to 3-hour wait times as Wyoming workers call for unemployment benefits - Casper, WY Oil City News
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Up to 3-hour wait times as Wyoming workers call for unemployment benefits

While it has now reopened, The Gaslight Social in Casper closed due to COVID-19 on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

CASPER, Wyo. – Official unemployment figures for March may not be available for weeks, but anecdotal evidence says more Wyoming workers are filing for state unemployment benefits.

According to the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services manager of communications Ty Stockton, people attempting to call the department to file for unemployment are experiencing wait times of up to three hours.

“We’re trying to direct folks to the website because there’s no wait time and it gets people through a lot quicker,” said Stockton.

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“If they have questions when they go through that, if they can call their local workforce center, most of the questions they have can probably be answered by someone there.”

Stockton said there may still be a wait time with local workforce centers, but not nearly as long as the state number.

“There’s definitely an increase in the number of unemployment claims going on right now,” he said. “The folks at the counters are seeing more people, and the folks on the phones are talking to more people.”

Wyoming’s economic future was already dimming as the energy sector retracts, but the effects of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic took an immediate toll on most businesses.

Last week within a matter of hours tourists left and hotels emptied.

Restaurants and bars modified their operations or closed altogether over the past week, but on Thursday the governor issued a mandatory closure of most public spaces where people gather, leaving businesses no choice but to call off staff.

Wyoming isn’t alone as coronavirus-related shutdowns increase nationally and globally.

According to an NPR story on Thursday, unemployment websites nationwide are experiencing slowdowns or crashing.

“Yesterday at 10 a.m. there were about 6,800 people trying to enter claims in the system,” Joe Barela, executive director of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment told NPR, noting that Colorado’s robust tourism industry has taken a dramatic hit as restaurants and ski resorts rapidly close.

There’s no indication that Wyoming’s unemployment website isn’t handling the load, however. Stockton said the last rush for unemployment benefits happened when the Gillette coal mines suffered widespread layoffs.

However, this one already feels like it will be more prolonged.

“Everyday there are more people who’s businesses are sending them home,” he said. “Hopefully they’ll be bringing them back when things clear up.

“If everyone stays healthy maybe this will clear up a bit faster, but we don’t have any control over that.”

People looking to file for state unemployment benefits can visit the WYUI website, or in Natrona County call the regional office at (307) 235-3264.

The Latest Statistics from the Wyoming Department of Health:

What to do if you are feeling sick: In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Casper-Natrona County Health Department says that people who are feeling sick or exhibiting symptoms should contact their primary physician.

If you do not have a primary care provider, and live in Natrona County, please contact the COVID-19 hotline, operated by the Casper-Natrona County Department of Health. The line is open Monday – Friday 8:00 am – 5:00 pm 577-9892. Hotline services are intended for Natrona County residents and may not be able to provide specific information to persons calling from out of county.

Officials ask that you please do not self-report to the Emergency Room. Persons experiencing problems breathing should call 9-11.

For general inquiries and non-symptom related questions about COVID-19, please contact the Casper-Natrona County Health Department via email: covid@cnchd.org

  • Practice Social Distancing by putting distance between yourself and other people. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Stay home if you’re sick
  • Cover coughs and sneezes. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
  • Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.

A list of area closures attributed to COVID-19 are available here.