New York Unemployment Office Grapples with Benefit Requests

Residents out of work because of the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic have turned to the state’s unemployment office to claim benefits. The situation prompted officials to implement a new filing system.

by Erik Bascome, Staten Island Advance / March 19, 2020

(TNS) — In an attempt to keep pace with the growing number of New Yorkers trying to file for unemployment benefits, the Department of Labor (DOL) has announced extended hours and implemented a new filing system.

This week, following Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s waiving of the seven-day waiting period for those seeking Unemployment Insurance benefits, the DOL has been inundated with tens of thousands of phone calls and online applications from laid-off New Yorkers.

By 12 p.m. on Tuesday, the DOL had received over 21,000 phone calls, compared to just 2,000 phone calls total on the previous Tuesday. Online, the DOL saw 110,000 website visits, compared to 42,000 the Tuesday prior.

“We are experiencing an unprecedented increase in the volume of calls and web traffic for Unemployment Insurance claims. This massive surge created intermittent interruptions in service. Our team is continuing to fix the problem as we monitor the situation around the clock,” according to the department.

In an effort to bolster efficiency and streamline the application process, the DOL has implemented a new filing system based off the first letter of the applicant’s last name.

A – F: Monday

G – N: Tuesday

O – Z: Wednesday

Missed your day: Thursday and Friday

The DOL has advised all applicants that filing later in the week will not delay payment or affect the date of the claim, with all claims effective on the Monday of the week they are filed.

Additional staff is being added to address the growing number of claims, with filing hours being extended to 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday, and 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday.

“Our dedicated staff are working as hard as we can to ensure that all benefits are paid and we will continue to do so. We appreciate the public’s patience,” the department said. 

Impacting Staten Islanders

On Tuesday, one Staten Island business owner told the Advance he encouraged his employees to file as quickly as possible due to the influx of applications the department would soon see.

“The first thing I told my employees was to jump and file already. To get it done as quickly as possible because I knew there was going to be a big backlog,” said Vincent Malerba, owner of Angelina’s Kitchen in New Springville and Angelina’s Ristorante in Tottenville.

He said he had to lay a number of people off, explaining that he’s watched sales plummet 90%. To make matters worse, Malerba’s catering business just stopped -- weddings, baby showers, birthdays, anniversaries.

On Monday, Malerba tried to assist his laid-off employees in enrolling in the program, but was met with the same technical difficulties reported by others throughout the state.

Douglas DiPasqua, banquet manager at Angelina’s Kitchen, said that he still hasn’t been able to enroll in the program despite repeated attempts online and over the phone.

“I had difficulty with the website, so I decided to give them a call. I gave them a call and it was a completely automated system. I went through and finished everything that was on the automated system itself, and then after being told I’d be connected with a representative, two seconds later it says ‘all representatives are busy right now, please call back,’" DiPasqua recalled.

Like many Staten Islanders, he said he has been saving up in case of an emergency, but added he will certainly feel the financial burden of losing work during one of the busiest times of the year.

“I’ve been saving a rainy day fund pretty much my whole life, but this is going to be a rough one. It’s going to be tough,” DiPasqua said. “Especially because we’re getting into the busy season right now. The spring and summer time is pretty much where you make all your money in this business. It’s going to hurt pretty bad.”

©2020 Staten Island Advance, N.Y., Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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