Only nine Kent Countians filed for unemployment in the first two weeks of March, but the second half of the month saw 369 new claims, according to data released by the Maryland Department of Labor on Wednesday.

Statewide, claims in the first two weeks of March were 5,900, but the last two weeks saw claims surge to nearly 127,000. The number is expected to climb.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this morning that the unemployment rate rose nationally by nearly 1 percent, the largest one month increase since January 1975. The jump added 1.4 million to the unemployment rolls, of which nearly 500,000 work in the food and hospitality industries.

The Center for Financial Economics at Johns Hopkins released a report yesterday forecasting unemployment to reach 20 percent nationwide,  a rate not seen since 1935.

Kent County, which significantly depends on tourism, will take a hit this summer. Many retailers are closed and restaurants are closed to sit-in dining. Major events and festivals that traditionally bring in a haul of revenue for the local economy have been canceled.

“This will not fare well for Kent County and other counties of the Mid-Shore,” said Del. Jay Jacobs, R-Kent.

He said he was encouraging businesses to apply to the $75 million loan fund and the $50 million grant fund established by Gov. Larry Hogan to help businesses stay afloat during the COVID-19 crisis.

“If you are a small business you should waste no time applying for these funds.” He said about 1,500 businesses have already applied for the state programs and the funds can be used to keep people on the payroll.

Jacobs said you can also talk to your local bank about applying for economic assistance from the federal relief package adopted last week in Congress.

“It’s my understanding that the process is pretty straight forward,” Jacobs said. He said $350 billion is available as of today to help small businesses.

While Jacobs is a lawmaker from the 36th District, he is also a contractor and understands the importance of meeting payrolls, he said.