ST. PAUL — Workers laid off or facing restricted hours due to the coronavirus pandemic in Minnesota are being asked to take turns applying for unemployment benefits due to heightened demand for financial support.

The Department of Employment and Economic Development on Sunday, March 29, issued guidance for unemployed Minnesotans to stagger applications based on the last number of their social security numbers. Officials said they've experienced a wave of applications that has overwhelmed call centers and DEED's website.

Around 239,263 workers in the state applied for unemployment since March 16, more than applied during the entirety of 2019, DEED Commissioner Steve Grove said.

"This is going to allow us to provide faster, more effective service," Grove said. "So far today, it's been working really well, we've been able to get back to people more quickly."

Grove encouraged applicants to fill out needed information on DEED's website to free up phone lines for those whose first language isn't English or those who can't access the internet. Department officials asked people with 0, 1 or 2 as the last digit of their social security number to apply Monday, 3, 4 or 5 to apply Tuesday, 6, 7, 8 or 9 to apply Wednesday and others to apply Thursday or Friday.

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Those who've already signed up won't be affected and the change in application procedures won't impact the total benefits for which applicants are eligible.

The uptick in applications for the insurance came as Minnesota on Monday reported 73 new cases of COVID-19 in the state, bringing the state total to 576 confirmed cases. That figure is considered to be an undercount.

Grove also encouraged small businesses hit by the economic effects of executive orders aimed at limiting the disease's spread to apply for emergency loans.

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Additional information about applying for unemployment insurance can be found on DEED's website at https://uimn.org/applicants/ and those unable to access the internet can call 1-877-898-9090.

Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 hotline: 651-201-3920.

School and childcare hotline: 651-297-1304 or 800-657-3504.

MDH COVID-19 website: Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) website.