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Western New Yorkers still struggle to file for unemployment

A spokesperson with the New York State Department of Labor said the strategy is two-fold: to reduce volume and increase capacity.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Dozens of you reached out to 2 On Your Side with similar concerns trying to file for unemployment amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

"It's just this reoccurring loop that never seems to end," explained Laura Del Monte of Clarence. 

Many Western New Yorkers, including Lisa Davis of Tonawanda, have been trying to get through for several days.

Davis said after a few attempts she completed her application online, but the over-the-phone portion is her main problem. 

Davis told 2 on Your Side, "I got through a handful of times. I really did. I got through, and I was able to put my social security number in. I was able to do all that but to then get disconnected, it's super frustrating. It's almost like a slap in the face."

She added, "I certainly would not mind waiting for hours in a cue if I had to, but the fact that they just don't even let you wait in a cue is so frustrating."

Del Monte and her husband are both trying to file.

"This morning we both hopped on the phone at 5 to 8, just to make sure the line would go through," she said. "So the line would go through, but they weren't open yet. And then at one-minute-to-8, it already started dropping. It wouldn't even connect because so many people were overwhelming the system."

Del Monte says because her husband, Tony, is self-employed, there are even more unknowns.

"The most frustrating part is you have no idea when you're gonna get the money and I think for a lot of self-employed, how much you're gonna get," she said. 

The state is trying to solve the problem.

A spokesperson with the New York State Department of Labor said the strategy is two-fold: to reduce volume and increase capacity. 

To increase capacity, the state has dedicated 700 workers to the unemployment insurance hotline. The spokesperson said hundreds of additional staff (re-assigned from within DOL, borrowed from other agencies, and new outside hires) are being on-boarded and trained right now. The state has also added more than 20 additional servers to the website to increase capacity.

Additionally, the call center hours have been extended: 

  • Monday through Thursday, 8:00 AM to 7:30 PM
  • Friday, 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM
  • Saturdays, 7:30 AM to 8:00 PM
  • In addition, the DOL is processing applications on Sundays

To reduce volume, the state is asking people to only file unemployment insurance claims on certain days, based on the first letter of their last name:

  • Monday: Last name starts A-F
  • Tuesday: Last name starts G-N
  • Wednesday: Last name starts O-Z
  • Thursday, Friday, Saturday: all last names

The spokesperson reassured New Yorkers that if their filing is delayed, they will still receive the entire benefit they're entitled to.  

However, for many, that doesn't totally take away the headache.

Davis told 2 on Your Side, "I understand that it's gonna be retroactive but when you've got bills due now and you've got groceries to buy now and you've got all these things that are due, it's just compounding the stress that I think everybody is under, under the circumstances that we're in right now."

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