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As frustrations with unemployment continue, New York State provides some answers

Many Western New Yorkers have been trying to finalize their claims for five weeks.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — 2 On Your Side is working to get you answers about unemployment and the problems people are having filing their claims. Wednesday, 2 On Your Side's Kelly Dudzik spoke with more people who are frustrated and she was able to get some information from the state about what's going on.

For a lot of people, it's week five of unemployment, but they're still waiting for an unemployment check to cover week one.

"We're talking about a couple of days’ lag on the unemployment insurance, and they will get the check from the date of unemployment. It does not cost them an extra penny," said Governor Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday.

"Especially for it to come from somebody who likely doesn't, you know, live paycheck to paycheck kind of thing. Like, no, I don't think he gets it," says Cheryl Kuntz.

Like a lot of local businesses that are closed because of the Governor's New York State on PAUSE Order, Cheryl Kuntz was forced to close her dog walking business in March. She's the co-owner and employs five people. Kuntz had to apply for unemployment and get rejected in order to file for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or PUA, because she filed before the process was streamlined this week.

Kuntz has applied three times now, and she hasn't heard anything in a while.

"I've been out of work for five weeks today, actually," she said. "Luckily, we're okay on my husband's income, but we're definitely spending differently than we would be if I was making money. We're essentially paying bills and buying groceries, and that's it. You know, we would love to be able to support local businesses, and other people who are hurting, but we just can't right now. I would just, I would feel a lot better if I had an answer either yes or no just to know what I need to do going forward with us."

A spokesperson with the state told 2 On Your Side Tuesday night that if you applied for PUA before the system was streamlined this week, you do not need to reapply. And, if your claim is pending you will get a call back. The time frame is no longer 72 hours. That only applied to claims pending before April 10 when the system was upgraded.

Debbie Barker lives in Gasport. She’s also waiting for her first check.

"It's not like I'm in dire straits, but it is very aggravating. Have a phone call or something," says Barker.

Barker got laid off from her job with a utility company March 23. She filed her claim online and thought she was done.

"I got all the way to the end of it and it said they couldn't complete it online I had to call," says Barker.

Barker has been stuck in an endless loop of making phone calls for weeks. On April 11, she was able to finalize her claim and spoke to someone on the phone who told her to go online to start claiming unemployment. She tried to log on and got a message telling her she needed to talk to someone on the phone again.

"So, then you're back in that run around with the phone system again," said Dudzik.

“Yeah, that you can't get through. So, I'm, I'm at a standstill," says Barker.

Tuesday night, a spokesperson with the state told 2 On Your Side if you have any questions, like Barker, you can call the main number and the wait times shouldn't be as long as they were before the system upgrade earlier this month.

The state says it has reduced the number of people with pending claims from before April 10 to just 4,300. That’s down from more than 200,000.

"What would you say if you actually got a person on the phone to talk to them about your situation?" asked Dudzik.

"I mean, I understand things are changing daily, probably for them. But you know, I've been trying this for three weeks, and making zero progress. I wish that they just had a better system. I understand that they're, you know, over overloaded with calls right now, but it's, it's not working," says Kuntz.

There is no time frame for that call you’d be getting from the state. It depends on how many people are “pending.”

As of late Wednesday afternoon, the questions 2 On Your Side submitted to the NYS Department of Labor have not been answered.

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