Jefferson County now holds the 13th highest unemployment rate out of 92 Indiana counties at 14.6%, the newest round of filings from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development showed.

Indiana is among the slowest-recovering states for unemployment, ranking 44th in a study from the financial website WalletHub. New unemployment insurance claims continue to grow statewide and totaled 31,885 the week of June 20, compared to an adjusted count of 24,017 the week before, according to IDWD.

Other southeast Indiana counties appear to have been hit just as hard, with Scott County placing fourth, Decatur sixth, Jennings 10th, Switzerland 12th and Ohio County 16th on the list.

Unemployment filings, on the decline since peaking at 146,000 in late March, have been on the increase the past three weeks as more businesses feel a continued impact from the pandemic.

One example is Madison’s JCPenney store, which employed more than 30 people and will not reopen due to the company filing bankruptcy in early June. A neighboring department store at River Pointe Mall, Gordman’s is rumored to be closing in the coming months but plans have not been announced by parent company Stage Stores.

Supplement store chain GNC filed for bankruptcy Tuesday and announced it would close 248 stores. Madison was not on that list but stores will close in Greencastle, Nora Plaza in Indianapolis, Kendallville and New Castle, according to the company.

According to WalletHub, coronavirus has wiped out all job gains since the recession of 2008 and 2009 in which 8.8 million jobs were lost but 22.7 million were added in the subsequent decade. Initial jobless claims in the last 14 weeks have totaled 47.2 million nationwide, more than five times the number lost in the recession, WalletHub’s researchers found.

Thursday’s report from IDWD also showed an additional 17,439 Indiana residents applied for benefits last week under the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program for self-employed and gig workers, up 12,016 new claims from the previous week. The state reported 209,080 people were receiving continued PUA as of June 6, up from 117,441 the prior week. Layoffs remain high nationally, but appear to be slowing as the number of workers applying for jobless benefits dropped for a 12th straight week.

Higher unemployment has also created a bigger reliance on food banks, community kitchens and food pantries, with those programs seeing a 154% increase in visits since March, the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration reported this week.

State Rep. Randy Frye is encouraging those needing assistance to turn to the state’s new Operation Food program, which coordinates a network of 12 food banks and 1,750 pantries or community kitchens. So far five meal sites have been designated in Jefferson County: Resurrection Lutheran Church, Jefferson County House of Hope Food, Salvation Army, Point of Grace Church and Rykers Ridge Baptist Church.

Madison’s Salvation Army distributed about 145 boxes of food during its third drive-through pantry on Monday, which was started in April to help families in need during the COVID crisis, Lt. Justin Hartley said.

Salvation Army also scaled up its rental assistance program at the start of the pandemic to help families pay for living costs, collecting $19,000 in donations from the Jefferson County United Way, Community Foundation of Madison and Jefferson County, Homeless Coalition of Southern Indiana and Central Credit Union. The local SA center normally ran that program with a budget of $1,000 before the pandemic, Hartley said.

With landlords starting to end eviction moratoriums and the need becoming more pressing, Salvation Army has already used $10,000 of those funds to help locals families pay their rent, he said.

“It was kind of a slow trickle in the beginning when we were starting it and getting it out there, but over the past couple weeks it’s picked up a bit,” Hartley said.