NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Last week, nearly 1.5 million Americans filed for unemployment, and there’s no doubt that our area, the epicenter of the coronavirus, is taking an economic hit with so many businesses hurting and people out of work.

Brooklyn was one of the hardest hit areas in terms of COVID cases and inundated hospitals, and now, it appears to have the highest number of people applying for unemployment insurance benefits.

Businesses are trying their best to stay afloat and get employees back to work.

It’s certainly sweet seeing BCakeNY back to baking, but for a custom cake studio that relies on events, it’s been a struggle since March.

“Not only were we not generating any sales but we also had to return deposits,” owner Miriam Milord said.

They also had to shrink staff from 16 to six, many collecting unemployment.

Milord is grateful they have financial support but spoke of challenges.

“We are now looking for staff but are not able to hire back our old staff because they’re comfortable with getting fairly large unemployment payments,” Milord told CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis. “It’s understandable if you are making ends meet that you don’t wanna risk your health, I understand that, but it’s just making it harder for small businesses … If you look around just on our block, there are businesses that will never reopen.”

And closing businesses means losing jobs.

Already in Brooklyn last week alone, the Department of Labor reported 13,488 unemployment insurance claims.

That’s down from the week before but the highest in the state, with Queens and the Bronx right behind it, among the nearly 1.5 million jobless claims across the country.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

The Brooklyn-based nonprofit Council of Peoples Organization is serving thousands of New Yorkers in the pandemic with a free halal food pantry in Midwood, including Anna, a housekeeper.

“For three months, I was not employed. It has been very bad for us, for my family. I have three kids,” she said.

She’s now working roughly two days a week, using the others to volunteer at the food pantry, serving the increased need of hungry New Yorkers.

“We used to be indoors, serving 1,000 families a month. Now we’re actually up to 2,000 families per week on site plus another 15,000 families,” said Aasma Mehdi, COO of the Council of Peoples Organization.

Volunteers packed up food deliveries. On Fridays, for pick-up, a line wraps around the block.

The organization says more than half of that line is undocumented people who aren’t necessarily reflected in the unemployment numbers we’re seeing.

CBS2 reached out to the city. The Department of Small Business Services has 18 Workforce1 centers, which are working with over 400 essential service employers to fill over 5,500 positions from community hospitals to grocery stores.

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