Signs in a bookstore window in Brunswick, Maine, encourage residents to stay home on the first day of Maine's mandatory stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Janet Mills to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, April 2, 2020. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty | AP

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An unprecedented number of unemployment claims crashed the state system that is designed to make payments on the first of the week. Labor officials say the system has been upgraded to handle more claims, but say payments could still be delayed.

Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman says department staff first noticed a problem in sending payments through financial institutions on Sunday. Those payments included transfers of money to debit cards used by recipients who don’t have direct deposit.

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Fortman says programming upgrades have been made that should solve the problem by next week. However, “every week is a new level of call volume and claims that we are processing, so I can’t guarantee that.”

Fortman says as the number of claimants is expected to continue to grow, the sheer volume of claims could cause other problems. She says this week, payments could be as late as 72 hours.

“If you normally received your benefits today, it may be tomorrow before you receive those benefits because those benefits go to an individual financial institution like a bank or credit union,” she says.

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This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.