Local man going on two months of no progress with unemployment application


COHOES, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The New York State Department of Labor said it has paid out nearly $7 billion in unemployment benefits since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, but after months of waiting, some still haven’t seen a penny.

NEWS10 ABC spoke with Chris Johnson, of Cohoes, in early April about his frustrations with the unemployment process. At that point, it had been one month since he filed a claim and he was still unable to complete the process over the phone. As of Monday, his timeline now stands at two months of no call backs and no unemployment check.

“I’ve not even received a letter on whether I’ve been denied or approved. When I call up, it says I have a valid claim on file and I can’t get past that,” said Johnson.

In April, he, like many other New Yorkers, got a pre-recorded phone call from the Department of Labor which told him to stop calling and that a representative would be reaching out to him within 72 hours to complete the process. He still has not received that follow-up call.

He also told NEWS10 he is part of a Facebook group for New Yorkers in the unemployment process and that someone had recently caught on to a glitch.

“If you put in all zeros for your social, it just pushes you through to a rep,” said Johnson.

That glitch has since been fixed and a spokesperson for the Department of Labor said: “New Yorkers should NOT enter all zeros in place of their social security number. There is a process in place so they will be directed to the appropriate representatives who can assist them with their claim.  This will only slow the process for them and other New Yorkers trying to file claims.”

Johnson said while that temporary glitch did finally allow him to get through to a human, he still hit a dead end.

“He said, ‘I don’t know what’s holding you up. I see you have a valid claim.’ So he transfers me over to the supervisor. Supervisor tells me, ‘I don’t have the information that you’re looking for. I don’t know how I can help you. I don’t know what your hold up is. I see you’ve been waiting for quite some time,'” Johnson recounted.

Johnson said he’s also noticed that some people in the Facebook group are just now starting the process and are already receiving checks, so he’s not sure why those who began the process in March are being left behind.

“It’s almost like we’re just lost in the system. No one has answers; nobody can do anything for us,” he said.

Johnson also said that at one point he was told that a letter was sent to him in the mail, but he said he never received that. Now he fears that he’s part of the group of people who had their letters mixed up and that a stranger may now have his personal information, including his social security number.

According to the Department of Labor, they have paid $6.8 billion in unemployment benefits to New York workers since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This amount, paid over the course of two months, is more than three times the $2.1 billion the department paid in total unemployment benefits during 2019.”

A spokesperson also said that, as of Friday, they are now using e-mails and text messages to keep New Yorkers informed throughout their application process from submission to approval.

Johnson said he has received no such text message or e-mail.

New York State Labor Commissioner, Roberta Reardon, released the following statement:

“Like every state, New York is facing a historic surge in unemployment claims — but we are moving faster than other states to get money into the hands of New Yorkers, and in just two months we’ve paid over three years’ worth of benefits I’ve been unemployed before myself, I know that losing your job is extremely anxiety-inducing, and I hope these new efforts to communicate directly to New Yorkers as their applications are processed will help make this difficult time a little less stressful.”

“I’m trying to be patient, but my bill collectors and my stomach don’t want to hear ‘be patient,’ especially when I feel I’ve been more than patient with them,” said Johnson.

The DOL provided additional information:

“Not everyone gets a call or needs to call — New Yorkers will ONLY be called back if more information is needed to complete their claim.”

“If an individual has already applied for UI or PUA, they can check the status of their claim online by logging into your NY.gov account. They will also receive emails, text or letters proactively informing them of the status of your unemployment benefit application.  https://labor.ny.gov/pressreleases/2020/may-08-2020.shtm

“If they see their claim is pending, no action is required; we have added thousands of DOL representatives who are working seven days a week to process claims as quickly as possible.”

“Earlier in the week, the Department of Labor also identified 470,084 New Yorkers with complete, processed and payable claims who had previously missed nearly 700,000 previous weekly certifications, preventing them from receiving their payments in prior weeks. If these individuals had claimed their previous weeks’ benefits, they would have received an additional $480 million.

In response, the Department of Labor will launch a streamlined process for submitting previous weeks’ certifications – also known as backdated certifications – allowing these New Yorkers to get paid easier and faster: https://labor.ny.gov/pressreleases/2020/may-06-2020.shtm

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