DECATUR, Ill. (WAND) – The number of people applying for unemployment benefits is up as states work to get a handle on COVID-19.

Illinois’ Department of Employment Security said between March 16 and March 18, more than 54,000 new claims were filed creating long waits for those trying to apply and questions about who is eligible.

"Definitely stressful not knowing where your money is going to come from,” Share Hammer, who lost her job a week ago said. “Bills don’t just go away.

The assistant retail store manager does not now when she will go back to work. She has no income and her bills are piling up.

"The biggest worry is being so far behind that I will see a shut off or not be able to catch up,” she said.

It took Hammer one week to get her unemployment benefits filed, and she is not alone. The U.S. Labor Department said unemployment claims were up from 211,000 last week to 281,000. That is the largest increase since 2008, and the influx in applications is creating longer than normal wait times for people in Illinois who are trying to apply.

"It has been stressful not knowing when I would be able to get my unemployment done,” she said. "I tried to call, and I called day after day after day and I always got a busy signal. "The only time I could get through was when they were closed."

According to the Illinois Department of Employment Security, since Gov. J.B. Pritzker ordered all non-essential business to close, changes have been made to who is eligible for benefits. Because of COVID-19, anyone who is temporarily out of work because of a coronavirus related closure will be eligible.

Anyone confined to a home because of a coronavirus related closure will be eligible as well as anyone who is taking care of a spouse, parent or child or because of a government-imposed quarantine.

Parents of children no longer in school are eligible as well, however; someone who quits their job over fears of the virus likely won’t be eligible.

The governor’s office has also waived the typical one week waiting period for anyone applying for benefits. Amounts someone will get varies on their pay and can range from $51 to $580 per week and can last for 26-weeks.