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Unemployed, looking for work in the midst of the coronavirus

It has been a struggle all week for people to file for unemployment either online or by phone, with the unemployment insurance website crashing.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — 2 On Your Side has heard from a lot of you on social media, who are now out of work because of the coronavirus. 

It has been a struggle all week for people to file for unemployment either online or by phone, with the unemployment insurance website crashing or just not being able to get through the state hotline.

Abbie McDonnell lost her job as a dishwasher and a cook at Pegasus Restaurant in Hamburg earlier this week, when restaurants were told they can only do takeout and delivery.

When did she first attempt to file for unemployment? 

"I did that Tuesday morning," McDonnell said. "I filed for unemployment, and I tried twice and I finally got it. I had to call over the phone to finish it. I called 40 times, and that 40th time I finally got a hold of someone, and I am so grateful for that." 

Whatever the state is going to come up with, will it be enough?

"I honestly don't know. I'll probably find out on the 22nd when I claim my benefits every Sunday, so I'm hoping, praying to God," McDonnell said. 

Now she's helping her boyfriend file for unemployment. 

The state Labor Department a few days ago rolled out a new filing system that the state hopes can deal with the demand. 

The state is asking people to file their claims based on the first letter of their last name.

  • Last names starting with letters A-F file on Monday
  • Last names starting with letters G-N file on Tuesday
  • Last names starting with letters O-Z file on Wednesday.

If you missed your day, you should file on Thursday, Friday or Saturday.

For Abbie, she's reluctantly looking for work at a grocery store, concerned about coronavirus. 

"I'm being very cautious about it right now," she said.

The state labor department says filing later in the week will not delay payments or affect your claim, since every claim is effective on the Monday of the week in which claims are filed.

And the labor department has extended unemployment filing hours:

  • Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. 
  • Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Saturday, 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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