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State unemployment system still a mess one year later

Apr 05, 2021 3:15 pm

Michelle Breidenbach is reporting for syracuse [dot] com New York’s website used to sign up for unemployment benefits is still not working. One year after hundreds of thousands of workers submitted new claims to the system, the state continues to leave people stranded without benefits for weeks and months. A new backup has occurred as people reach the one-year anniversary of the coronavirus shutdown that put them out of work last March. The state required some people to reapply, but not others. They mostly have to sort it out for themselves and it is confusing. Advocates complain of blocked phone lines, fraud, miscommunication and delayed payments continue one year later. Hundreds of people respond to the labor department’s tweets and Facebook posts with pleas for help. “How about fixing unemployment instead of having to wait weeks,” one person wrote. “No money for bills, car getting ready to be repossessed, phone getting ready to be cutoff! We can’t tell our bill collectors to wait weeks!” People reach out to their elected representatives and to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office for help navigating the system. Jon Bloom, executive director of the Workers Defense League, one of the few advocates for people throughout New York who need to sort out their claims, said the huge number of people who need to reapply after one year added to thousands of brand new applicants is now overwhelming the system. “The volume is enormous,” he said. “It’s a tsunami.” Bloom said most of the issues are easily fixed. The problem is reaching someone with enough experience to handle it. More than 5 million unemployment claims have been filed in New York since March 2020. While initial unemployment claims have slowed, the number off filings remains steady and high. In the week that ended March 27, there were 51,500 initial claims filed statewide. Initial claims increased over the previous week in every industry and every region in New York state. Read the full story at syracuse [dot] com.