SAN LUIS, Ariz. — As applicants for unemployment assistance stand in lines in the heat here, Arizona@Work is urging them to file their claims at alternative sites or online.

Jobless numbers typically rise here once the peak agricultural season draws to a close in the spring, but the unemployment rate is surging even higher as businesses shutter amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Patrick Goetz, employer engagement officer for Arizona@Work, said the pandemic caused most of the agricultural companies operating in the area to end the season sooner than normal this year.

Long lines of unemployment applicants have formed at the Arizona Department of Economic Services office in San Luis, prompting Arizona@Work, a statewide workforce development network, to partner with city of San Luis and several other organizations to open alternate sites for making and to file claims on the DES website.

“In (the alternate) sites people can make their applications conveniently and with shorter wait times,” said Nidia Herrera, executive director of the Yuma County branch of Arizona@Work.

Partnering with the Arizona@Work are the Yuma County Chamber of Commerce; Campesinos sin Fronteras, a social service agency in Somerton and San Luis, and Arizona Complete Health.

Herrera said the agencies were concerned that by forming long lines outside the DES office in San Luis, the applicants not only were exposing themselves to the heat but also were overlooking social distancing recommendations aimed at preventing the spread of the virus.

For social distancing reasons, she said, the DES office only allows five applicants at a time inside the office, further contributing to long lines outside.

One of the alternate application sites, is the South County Business Resource Center opened by the chamber of commerce in San Luis. The office at 1453 N. Main St. is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Its phone number is 928-782-2568.

The other two sites are in Yuma, at the Arizona@Work office, 3826 W. 16th St., and the DES office, 1185 S. Redondo Drive. Phone numbers are 928-329-0990 for Arizona@Work and 928-247-8740 for the DES office.

Arizona@Work is also urging applicants to go to the DES website, www.azdes.gov, to file or get information about filing claims.

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