New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said there have been so many unemployment claims that the state’s entire system – including the website and phones – buckled under the volume, the governor said during his daily COVID-19 briefing in Buffalo on Tuesday (April 21).
“The bad news is, there were so many unemployment claims that it has collapsed the unemployment department’s system, their website system, their phone system,” Cuomo said.
He noted that despite delays, everyone will eventually get the dollar amount to which they are entitled. “I know it’s frustrating, but once you qualify, the qualification is retroactive, so you’re going to get the same benefit.”
New York had over 1,000 people working the phones and computer system to answer questions and process unemployment benefits.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “One thousand people just to take the incoming unemployment calls. That’s how high the volume is and they still can’t keep up with the volume.”
The number of unemployment claims is breaking records nationwide as the coronavirus pandemic keeps nonessential businesses closed and enforces social distancing measures.
Since the outbreak started, New York has paid out roughly $2.2 billion in unemployment benefits to 1.1 million residents, according to a report in CNBC citing state data. There is still a logjam of 4,305 phone applications. Prior to April 8, some 275,000 applications were in the queue, the state said.
Across the country, some 22 million people sought unemployment benefits in about a month’s time.
New York introduced a new computer system on Monday (April 20) that streamlines the digital unemployment filing process, the state said in a statement. The updated system allows direct filing for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for self-employed workers, independent contractors, gig workers, farmers, people with COVID-19 or those caring for a family member with the virus.
Under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, people can get 39 weeks of jobless benefits if they can’t work due to the pandemic, but are not eligible for regular or extended unemployment benefits.
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) said on Tuesday (April 21) that “we have a deal” on a new $300 billion-plus package of Paycheck Protection Package (PPP) loans for small and medium-sized businesses, although Republicans say it isn’t quite final.