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After all-night lines, new system for unemployment help

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The Alabama Department of Labor has created an appointment system for people to get in-person help with employment claims after people were sleeping overnight in a parking lot in the hopes of seeing someone.

The department announced that beginning on July 6 it will take 300 appointments per day in Montgomery. The department said information about obtaining an appointment is available on their website. The department cautioned that an in-person meeting does not guarantee that the issue will be resolved.

The Labor Department had been seeing people on the campus of Alabama State University, but the first-come, first serve system meant people were lining up overnight in the hopes of seeing someone in the morning.

News outlets showed lines of hundreds of people waiting with blankets and stadium chairs. Volunteer groups began distributing water to those waiting in line overnight.

Huntsville resident Michael Morgan told WSFA earlier that he and his wife left for Montgomerty at 2 a.m. in the hopes of seeing someone about a claim. He said people lined up to sleep in tents and chairs.

“It just absolutely breaks my heart,” Morgan told the station. “It really hurts me to know that we’re all paying into a system and when people are really in need, they can’t get the help they need, especially when it’s easily taken out of their paychecks,” he said.

Unemployment claims skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic, overwhelming the state system.

The state unemployment rate in April jumped to nearly 14%. By comparison, it was 3% in May of 2019.

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