CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state opened a second call center Thursday to help process a record number of unemployment claims linked to the coronavirus.

Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, W.Va. adjutant general

State Adjutant General Jim Hoyer said the center located at WVU in Morgantown began taking calls for WorkForce West Virginia. He said there could be two additional call centers opening in the coming days.

“A third call center will be going on line soon and we are looking at the potential of a fourth call center now to make sure we disburse are assets effectively,” Hoyer said.

WorkForce West Virginia reported Thursday afternoon it had received 35,900 claims in the first eight days of April after receiving more than 90,000 unemployment claims in the final two and a half weeks of March. The state processed 3,900 claims for the entire month of April last year.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has put a lot of people out of work, and our hearts go out to every person who’s lost a job these last few weeks,” WorkForce West Virginia acting Commissioner Scott Adkins said.. “I know these are scary times, but folks can be assured that we’re working round the clock with the help of the West Virginia National Guard to process claims and get people the help they need.”

Hoyer said the additional call centers should help. He said the Guard currently has 21 workers there with nine more to join soon. Hoyer said state police personnel would also soon begin answering phones. Efforts are also underway to improve the processing of claims, Hoyer said Thursday.

“We have a team from the Office of Technology, WorkForce West Virginia and the National Guard Technology Office looking at additional technologies and software that will be used to help improve the call center as well as improve the efficiencies of claims processing,” he said.

Gov. Jim Justice

Gov. Jim Justice said the office is getting better at turning around as many claims as possible. He said Wednesday was a good day.

“We had a total number of claims that came in at 5,400 (for the day) and we processed 4,200,” he said. “We’re still losing a little bit of ground on certain days and certain days we’re doing terrific.”

Justice said at his Thursday media briefing he doesn’t believe state residents will be unemployed long because of federal stimulus packages aimed at helping businesses.

“Many, many of those people that have submitted unemployment claims will be getting a pay check from their employers and coming off of unemployment,” Justice predicted. “The numbers up to this point and time have grown but I can tell you the numbers are going to decrease pretty rapidly.”

The state distributed unemployment benefits to 29,000 state residents Tuesday that included an additional $600 a week in benefits from the CARES Act recently passed by Congress. The additional $600 will go for 16 weeks or to July 31 whichever comes first.

Adkins said earlier this week on MetroNews “Talkline” his best advice was if the line is busy is to keep calling 1-800-252-JOBS and if you can’t log-on to the Workforce site to file your claim keep trying.