A delicate dance: Wait for unemployment benefits or look for other work?

Those who have been laid off in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic are facing a tough decision. Do you find another job or file for unemployment insurance?

So far, more than 355,000 people have filed for the help in Minnesota, which is about 11 percent of the state’s workforce.  

Employers are navigating this new world as best they can. Some places, like Hammer Residences, are adding to their staff. 

“Our staffing needs have gone up not down during this crisis because people need to be home all day,” said John Estrem, the CEO of Hammer Residences.

The nonprofit provides housing and support for those living with disabilities. With activities canceled, residents are home all day and need more staff to care for them.

“We have seen an increase in people applying - to be fair, in spring we see an increase anyway - but we think it’s even bigger than normal at this time,” said Estrem.

There’s concern some competition is on the way. State unemployment benefits are in motion, totaling about half your weekly wage up to $740, lasting for 26 weeks. Soon, an extra boost from the federal government’s CARES Act, which includes $600 per week for the next four months.

“I think it’s still difficult to hire even in this environment simply because people are hoping to return to the jobs they are laid off or furloughed from,” said Deb McMillan of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.

Workforce experts believe more employees are going the unemployment collection route, believing it's the safer bet right now as workers look to keep healthy and eventually return to their careers.

“So I think there’s a lot of folks who are going to sit tight,” said McMillan. “They’re going to take their unemployment. The federal addition of $600 really makes a lot of these folks whole.”