Overall unemployment claims dropped in the first week of April in the Rio Grande Valley, showing signs the numbers may be stabilizing as many businesses remain shuttered amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
Among the individual counties in the Valley, the numbers decreased in two counties and increased in the other two, though the increases were slight compared to spikes seen in March.
In Hidalgo County, 7,770 claims were filed during the week ending on April 4, a slight uptick from the previous week which had 7,758 unemployment claims.
Claims also rose in Willacy County to 109 filed during the first week of April from the 82 that were filed during the last week of March.
However, the numbers dipped in Cameron and Starr counties during that first week in April.
In Cameron, 3,657 claims were filed which was down from 3,810 that were filed during the last week in March, the week ending on March 28.
The less populated Starr County had a similar drop in April — down to 433 unemployment claims during the week ending on April 4 from the 538 claims filed the week prior.
Though the number of claims appears to have leveled off, the figures for that week are still multiple times more than the claims filed at the same time last year.
During the week ending on April 4, 2019, 628 unemployed were filed in Hidalgo County while 29 were filed in Willacy.
In Cameron, the drop to 3,657 this April is still 12 times more than what it was during the week ending on April 4, 2019, when 284 claims were filed.
In Starr County, only 75 unemployment claims were filed during the same time in April 2019.
As the high number of unemployment claims persists throughout the country, government officials have begun discussing steps to re-open businesses.
Action was already taken statewide when Gov. Greg Abbot signed executive orders last week that will allow retail stores to open with restrictions on Friday.
Following the order, Rio Grande City Mayor Joel Villarreal issued a statement hoping to assuage any fears within the community.
“Please be rest assured that the city of Rio Grande City is committed to protecting the health and wellness of our community,” Villarreal stated. “Therefore, we will continue to work with our neighboring municipalities as well as our local, state and federal authorities to ensure a safe, effective, and efficient step-by-step approach to reopening our cities and county.”
He added that opening businesses did not mean they would be abandoning safety practices and protocols that had been implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“We must remain vigilant,” Villarreal stated. “We ask that you continue to follow all current County and City shelter-in-place orders until further notice. Details of our strategic plan will be forthcoming in the days ahead.”