ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico’s latest business shutdown is expected to surge the number of people out of work and in need of unemployment assistance. The state is urging jobless workers to seek help immediately, preferably online.

Overseeing unemployment benefits, the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions was one of the most overwhelmed state agencies when the pandemic first hit. As tens of thousands of New Mexicans were applying for unemployment assistance in late March and early April, some waited weeks for their claims to be processed. This time, the state is hopeful the process will be smoother.

“People are a lot more familiar with our system than they may have been in the past,” said Secretary Bill McCamley, who runs the state’s Department of Workforce Solutions. “Most of these folks that are going to be back in, we anticipate they’ve gone through this before.”

McCamley says the state isn’t sure exactly how many more people will be signing up for jobless benefits during the latest November shutdown, but he says the state will be closely monitoring those numbers throughout the week. During the second week of November, there were about 104,000 New Mexicans on unemployment. That was down from peak jobless numbers in June when about 156,000 people were on the jobless rolls.

The big difference this time is jobless workers won’t get the federal government’s extra $600 a week kicker like they did in the early part of the pandemic. According to Workforce Solution’s website, the maximum benefit workers can now receive is $461 per week.

McCamley is encouraging anyone who’s out of work to apply for benefits immediately. He also says jobless workers need to be sure to certify if they’re still jobless each week, all online if possible.

“We would really encourage people, please use that website if you can, and try to stay patient with us,” McCamley said. “I promise you, our people are going to be doing everything they possibly can to get everyone’s help as fast as we can get it to you.”

Workforce Solutions say the timeframe can vary for how long it takes to receive jobless benefits, equating the situation to a “case-by-case” basis. Reopening the claim of someone who’s filed for unemployment earlier in the year is typically faster than if you’re out of work for the first time. However, the quickest claims can still take several days to process in many cases.

Before the pandemic, New Mexico had around 9,600 total unemployment claims. That’s less than ten percent of the number of jobless claims today.