New Yorkers Wait Weeks for Unemployment Benefits

New Yorkers Wait Weeks for Unemployment Benefits

Even though New York State (NYS) reports that the unemployment system has been upgraded, there are thousands of people whose claims haven’t been processed, are still pending, are showing forfeit days that have already been paid back, or are simply stuck. Stranger still, many of the unprocessed claims seem to have gone into the system at the same time—in March. 

The New York Times reports that the “Economic Policy Institute found in an online poll that for every 10 people who have successfully filed unemployment claims, three or four people have been unable to register and another two people have not tried to apply at a time of acute economic crisis.” For those who are able to register, many are unable to get their claims processed and get paid.

When Your Claim Should be Processed

The New York State Unemployment website says:

“If you are eligible, your first payment will generally be made in two to three weeks from the time you file your claim. In some cases, we must get additional information before payment can be made and your first payment may take longer. We use this time to review and process your application for benefits.”

This isn’t happening for many applicants who filed one to two months ago. They haven’t heard anything.

Contacting NYS Unemployment

To make things even worse, it seems like it’s almost impossible to get in touch with anyone to check on the status of a claim. Claimants have tried calling hundreds of times and can’t get through. They have messaged through the NYS system, emailed, faxed, and reached out on social media—all to no avail.

I’m not even sure, anymore, what to say to the person who filed a claim eight weeks ago on March 2, and whose claim is stuck on March 29, with no payments. Nor do I know what to say to the mom, with a husband and children with medical issues, who was the sole provider for her family. Her claim has been pending since early March, and the bills are piling up.

Then there’s the dental hygienist who has worked for the same employer for 20 years. Her claim hasn’t been processed either, though I can’t imagine what issue there could be with someone who has had one job for most of her working life. There’s also the mom with five kids who messaged me that she has been trying to get in touch with the unemployment department since early March.

There are others whose claim shows that they are forfeiting days because of overpayments. In many cases, they haven’t been overpaid and don’t owe anyone anything.

These are just a few of the people I’ve heard from, who not only are living through a pandemic, but doing it without the benefits they are entitled to.

For more stories, visit the HELP US – NYS Unemployment Issues Facebook page, which has over 35,000 members who have issues with their unemployment claim. Or read some of the comments on the NYS DOL Twitter page. There are thousands of posts and comments from claimants who aren’t being paid, despite the assurances of NYS to the contrary.

Unemployment Claims Issues

There appears to be at least three major issues, and a lot of smaller ones:

Claims Not Being Paid
The claim appears to be valid; however, no payments have been made. You can file for benefits each week, but the claim appears to be stuck.

Claims Stuck as Pending
The claim shows that it is pending. Nobody from NYS is calling to update the claimant’s information, and the person can’t get through to update their claim. In the words of social media, the claim is “stuck in pending hell.”

Forfeit Days
Claims are showing forfeit days, which are days you owe unemployment if you were overpaid in the past, in some cases erroneously, so the person doesn’t show as being eligible for unemployment. Some states are waiving forfeit day penalties in order expedite the claims process.

What the NYS Department of Labor Says

In numerous tweets and Facebook posts, the New York State Department of Labor says that most of the backlog has been cleared up, and people are getting called back. The applicants we spoke with are still waiting and aren’t getting called back. 

Questions for the Department of Labor

Everyone I have heard from with an issue filed for unemployment in March. What I’ve been trying to ask New York State, with no success, is whether the March filers are in limbo, separated by the updated system from current unemployment insurance action. I have spoken to legislators who agree that this could be the issue.

Is there a glitch between the old and new systems, and the claims from the old system haven’t migrated properly? Could they simply be stuck, and that’s why nobody is addressing them?

I have called and emailed the Department of Labor Press Office, and will update when I have news.

What to Do Next?

What everyone I’ve mentioned has in common is that they are all desperate. They have slept with their phones so they don’t miss a call. They can’t pay their bills, and despite all their efforts they cannot even talk to a person about their claim. That’s the worst part—waiting seven or eight weeks simply to talk to someone who can help with their claim.

Here’s what unemployed workers have tried to do to get New York State’s attention:

  • Waited for calls – I don’t know of one person who has been called back within the 72 hours that NYS is promising. Some people are getting callbacks at some point, but definitely not everyone.
  • Called – hundreds of times, in some cases. Most people can’t get through.
  • Messaged – through the online messaging system, with no response.
  • Emailed – with no response.
  • Faxed – with no response.

What Can You Do to Get Help?

Call your Assemblymember or Senator’s local office, and email them as well. If you’re in the city, see if your City Council member can help.

Have the details on your claim ready to share, when you filed, what the claim status is, etc. A screenshot of your claims page would be helpful. Also, be prepared to share your contact information including email address, phone number, and your mailing address. 

Many representatives have been very responsive and helpful in getting call backs from the Department of Labor claims processed (thank you!).

Reach out on social media. The DOL has been responsive on Twitter:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/NYSLabor
Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/nyslabor/

This is a helpful Facebook Group for unemployed New Yorkers:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/223743412368739

If Your Claim is Denied: If your claim has been denied, the New York State Bar Association is offering legal assistance from attorneys who have volunteered to help. Here’s how to get assistance.

I will continue to try to get an update from the NYS Department of Labor, so check back for news. If you have updates or news, please let me know: alison@alisondoyle.com.