As COVID-19 continues to spread, so does unemployment.

Jennifer Gnagey, a WSU adjunct professor of economics, has worked with her Labor Economics students to help people apply for unemployment insurance. (Unsplash)

In light of this situation, Jenny Gnagey, an adjunct professor of economics at Weber State, saw it as an opportunity to help those affected while providing a learning experience for her Labor Economics course students.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 33,076 Utah residents have filed unemployment claims as of April 4, which is a record high for unemployment in the state.

Gnagey has organized her Labor Economics students to field calls to help the community on how to apply for unemployment insurance.

“What inspired me to do this is that I had a friend who lost her job at a local restaurant, and she asked me to help her apply for unemployment insurance benefits,” Gnagey said. “I thought I could use my experience to teach my students about the process, and then, perhaps as a class, we could help teach the community about the process.”

The students can answer questions on eligibility, along with providing a walkthrough for how to file for an initial claim.

To become volunteers, the students went through general training on the unemployment system and the updated rules for eligibility, along with familiarizing themselves with the application process.

Gnagey created training videos for the students to view for training. She also published these videos for the public to watch on the Guide ‘Em Ogden website.

“I thought helping with unemployment insurance applications would be an appropriate way for a labor economics class to interact with the community in the face of COVID-19,” Gnagey said.

Along with these videos, Guide ‘Em Ogden’s employment page includes links on available job openings, unemployment insurance and updates from the Department of Workforce Services.

They also provide the schedule and phone numbers of the students who are fielding calls for those who would like help over the phone.

Aside from employment information, the website also provides different resources for people in need during these times, such as information about housing and wellness. These resources may also be helpful once the pandemic subsides.

In previous years, Gnagey’s Labor Economics class has done the Ogden Independent Living Standard Project. Gnagey explained the project is to estimate how much income different types of families would need to earn without needing government help. As part of this project, the class would partner with Cottages of Hope, a local non-profit.

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