Delaware often pays $1.5 million a week in unemployment benefits. Last week, it paid $30 million

As a few states begin to ease coronavirus restrictions, Gov. John Carney said Tuesday that Delaware will not reopen its economy until it meets the guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The labor secretary said Tuesday that Delaware paid more than $30 million in unemployment benefits last week, as the department continues to receive an historic number of claims.

“I don’t want to open the economy a day too soon, and I don’t want to delay it a day longer if I can avoid it,” Carney said in a press briefing. “So states that are reopening without following the CDC guidelines – that’s not going to happen here if I have anything to do with it.”

As of April 21, the state confirmed 2,931 cases of the coronavirus and 82 related deaths. The number of hospitalizations increased to 263 statewide, and 565 people have recovered from the virus.

The CDC has advised states to not begin opening up their economy until they see a 14-day decline in both the number of confirmed cases and hospitalizations.

Yet this week, Republican governors in South Carolina and Georgia have said they will begin to reopen some businesses in their respective states.

This comes at a time when some Americans are protesting at state capitols despite the science showing that social distancing can help slow the spread of infection.

Carney called the protests “not helpful” but said he expects to see it in Delaware.

A Facebook group called Delawareans Against Excessive Quarantine has scheduled a “reopen rally” for May 1 in Dover, according to its Facebook page. The group has about 4,300 online followers.

“I hear the anguish in their voices,” Carney said of those who want to reopen the state. “I hear the same amount of anguish in people’s voices when they say, you know, ‘Don’t do it too soon. Protect me and my family.’”

Labor Secretary Cerron Cade said during the briefing that a total of 61,842 unemployment claims have been filed since March 15. This figure is close to the number of claims filed in the last two years combined, he said.

In the past week, the state has paid $30 million in unemployment benefits, Cade said, whereas Delaware typically pays $1.5 million a week in unemployment. About 20% of the claims come from people who are not eligible for unemployment, Cade said. About 65% of the total have received their benefit.

“That’s not a typo, to be clear,” Cade said.

In the coming weeks, the department hopes to have a program for self-employed and independent contract workers, Cade said. Previously, these types of workers didn’t receive unemployment from the state.

Contact Meredith Newman at (302) 324-2386 or at mnewman@delawareonline.com. Follow her on Twitter at @merenewman.