LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – A staggering 3.7 million people have filed for unemployment benefits in California since the coronavirus pandemic took hold in the state.

A waiter wearing a mask takes clients orders during the novel coronavirus pandemic on April 28, 2020, in Hermosa Beach, Calif. (Getty Images)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday that 3.7 million people had applied for unemployment since March 12.

The state has been under a stay-at-home order since March 19.

Newsom disclosed that more than $6 billion in unemployment claims had been distributed, with $1.2 billion of that coming within the past 24 hours.

Tuesday was for the first day for which independent contractors and gig workers — who would not normally qualify for unemployment — could apply under the state’s Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program.

There were 235,000 unemployment applications filed Tuesday, 190,000 were under the PUA program.

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“We saw, not surprisingly, a spike in applications yesterday,” Newsom said Wednesday.

Newsom acknowledged the frustrations that thousands of people were experiencing in trying to get their applications approved as they dealt with long wait times both online and by the phone.

“I am deeply aware that many of you tried to access that system online, in-person, and struggled to get in…We are getting our arms around this unprecedented volume,” Newsom said.

The state went from seeing an average of 2,500 applications a day prior to the pandemic to tens of thousands, Newsom said.

“Not an excuse…We have to provide more support,” Newsom said bluntly.

The California Employment Development Department has struggled to handle the overload to its system. The governor reiterated the steps he has taken to address that, including communicating with applicants online using chatbots and texting and hiring 1,340 people for the EDD call center and extending the hours to seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The turnaround period for receiving money is 24 to 48 hours for people with debit cards, Newsom said. Those without debit cards should receive money with seven days.

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