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May 1, 2020
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Albany, NY

Audio & Rush Transcript: NYS Department of Labor Announces Over $4.6 Billion in Unemployment Benefits Distributed to New Yorkers Since Beginning of COVID-19 Crisis

Audio & Rush Transcript: NYS Department of Labor Announces Over $4.6 Billion in Unemployment Benefits Distributed to New Yorkers Since Beginning of COVID-19 Crisis
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1.6 Million Complete Applications Have Been Submitted and Processed Since Crisis Began
Earlier this week, DOL Issued Directive Requiring NYS-Based Employers to Provide New Yorkers with Information they need to Apply for Unemployment Benefits

Commissioner Reardon: "Today is May Day, or International Workers Day...so, before we get into today's news, I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge the sacrifices that our workers make every day, especially during this crisis, and honor the lives that have been lost to coronavirus over the last two months, including those of our brothers and sisters on the frontlines, from the nurses, doctors, and other workers in our hospitals; to transit workers; to grocery store workers; to delivery personnel; to first responders like EMTs, police officers, corrections officers, and firefighters."

Reardon: "Between March 9th and April 30th, we have connected well over a million of our neighbors with an unprecedented $4.6 billion dollars in benefits...I know there are still many New Yorkers who are waiting to receive their benefits, and I understand the frustration and anxiety they are feeling...I want you to know that we are working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to connect you with your benefits - and I will not rest until every New Yorker has access to the unemployment benefits they deserve."

Earlier today, New York State Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon announced that New York State had distributed over $4.6 billion in unemployment benefits since the coronavirus pandemic began impacting businesses in early March. In total, the DOL has processed over 1.6 million completed applications for unemployment benefits since March 9th, including for both traditional unemployment insurance and the new COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.

AUDIO of Commissioner Reardon's remarks is available here.

A rush transcript of Commissioner Reardon's remarks is available below:

Good afternoon. This is New York State Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon. It's great to be speaking with many of you again and thank you, everyone, for joining us for this update.

Today is May Day, or International Workers Day, and the fact that I am speaking to you over the phone rather than taking part in ceremonies across New York honoring workers' sacrifices really drives home how much, and how fast, the coronavirus pandemic has changed our day-to-day lives.

So, before we get into today's news, I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge the sacrifices that our workers make every day - especially during this crisis - and honor the lives that have been lost to coronavirus over the last two months, including those of our brothers and sisters on the front lines, from the nurses, doctors, and other workers in our hospitals; to transit workers; to grocery store workers; to delivery personnel; to first responders like EMTs, police officers, corrections officers, and firefighters.

These individuals are all heroes - working every day to save lives, keep New Yorkers fed, and get essential workers to their jobs and back home and we thank them from the bottom of our hearts.

Today, I'd like to provide you with an update on New York State's unemployment system.

As you know, yesterday the Federal government announced that another 3.8 million Americans had filed new, completed claims for unemployment insurance, including 222,040 New Yorkers. That brings the total number of new claims since the coronavirus pandemic began to a staggering 30 million Americans filing for unemployment benefits - representing roughly 18 percent of the country's labor force. Here in New York, we have processed over 1.6 million completed unemployment benefit applications since the crisis began.

Today we want to let you know, that between March 9th and April 30th, we have connected well over a million of our neighbors with an unprecedented $4.6 billion dollars in benefits. This includes funds that have been paid for traditional unemployment insurance; Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or P - U - A, which provides benefits for gig workers, self-employed New Yorkers, farmers, independent contractors, and those not covered by traditional unemployment; Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, which provides an additional $600 per week for all benefit recipients; and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, which provides 13 additional weeks of benefits, for a total of 39 weeks.

And, speaking of those Federal programs, I want to highlight that we were the first state to issue the additional $600 per week - and, in fact, we even used state money to pay this benefit at first, before we received funding from the Federal government. And we launched a seamless application for both traditional unemployment insurance and PUA on April 20th, weeks ahead of other states.

I know there are still many New Yorkers who are waiting to receive their benefits and I understand the frustration and anxiety they are feeling. I have been unemployed before myself, and I know exactly how you are feeling.

I want you to know that we are working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to connect you with your benefits - and I will not rest until every New Yorker has access to the unemployment benefits they deserve.

During these difficult times, we are also doubling-down on proactive communication to help New Yorkers file their applications and access their benefits.

Many of you were on a call with me earlier this week, when I said the number one reason applications were "partially complete" is because they contain a missing or incorrect Federal Employer Identification Number for the applicant's former employer. That's why we issued a directive reminding all New York State businesses that they have a legal obligation to provide this information to their former employees.

We are reinforcing this message on social media, because I know how stressful and disorienting losing your job can be and I want every New Yorker to go into the application process with everything they need to successfully complete their application and quickly receive their benefits.

And since we launched our "call back" initiative on April 10th, we have been reminding New Yorkers that they do not need to call us - if we need more information to complete your application, we will call you. Since we started call backs 20 days ago, our representatives have made over 670,000 proactive phone calls to collect the information needed to complete New Yorkers' claims. That is a herculean task and I want to thank everyone who has been part of the call back effort for their continued dedication to connecting New Yorkers with their benefits.

In the same vein, today we will release a "Frequently Asked Questions" video series answering some of the most prevalent and pressing questions New Yorkers have about unemployment insurance. This new video series is just another example of the creative, proactive ways we are communicating with New Yorkers during this crisis and it recognizes that in addition to the thousands of calls we receive every day, New Yorkers are getting information from, and asking questions on, social media platforms.

During this crisis, we have doubled-down on our proactive social media efforts including on Twitter and Facebook and we will continue these efforts so that everyone has the information they need to file for unemployment benefits.

With all of this being said, I want to acknowledge that there are many more New Yorkers for us to serve and once again commit to connecting every New Yorker who lost their job with unemployment benefits. I know that losing your job is one of the most trying situations someone can face and I know there is more work to do here in New York.