The New York State Department of Labor today announced that over $5.8 billion in unemployment benefits have been paid to 1.5 million New Yorkers since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, the Department announced it had identified over 470,000 New Yorkers who have completed, processed, and payable unemployment insurance claims, but did not receive some of their benefits in previous weeks because they did not submit one or more weekly certifications, which are required by Federal law before payments are released. In total, these individuals would have received up to $480 million in benefits if they had completed all of their certifications. In response, the DOL is launching a new, streamlined process for New Yorkers to submit backdated certifications and get their back pay faster and easier.
"No New Yorker should miss receiving their benefits because of red tape - and today we are announcing efforts to help nearly half a million of our neighbors get their backdated benefits faster and easier," NYS Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said. "We will continue to think outside of the box and find creative solutions to the most common roadblocks to benefits New Yorkers face, and we will not rest until everyone has been served."
Under federal law, every American receiving unemployment insurance benefits, including traditional unemployment insurance and the new COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, is required to submit a weekly certification confirming they continue meet all of the program's conditions before that week's payment is released. Earlier this week, the DOL determined approximately 90,000 New Yorkers were not submitting weekly certifications, preventing them from receiving money going forward, and announced a proactive effort to educate New Yorkers about this critical step.
Now, the Department of Labor has 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.
Under the old system, individuals who had missed submitting a Federally-required weekly certification had to call the Department of Labor's call center and speak with a live DOL representative - significantly hampering New Yorkers' ability to receive back pay, especially during this crisis, which has taxed the DOL's call center capacity.
The new, streamlined system will allow New Yorkers to submit backdated certifications online, via a secure form that can be emailed directly to those with missing certifications. The DOL will begin emailing these forms next week and will continue to identify and reach out to individuals with missing weekly certifications to ensure they get their money - including via emails, phone calls, and physical letters based on the contact information provided.
For future weeks, New Yorkers are reminded that certifying online is the easiest and fastest way to claim their benefits. You can certify by:
- Visiting www.labor.ny.gov/signin
- Entering your NY.gov username and password.
- Clicking the "Unemployment Services" button on the My Online Services page.
- Then clicking "Claim Weekly Benefits" and following the instructions.
Those who cannot certify online should use the DOL's automated phone system by calling 1-888-581-5812 (for traditional unemployment insurance) or 1-833-324-0366 (for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance).
Facing an unprecedented surge in unemployment claims, the Department of Labor has taken decisive action to update its systems, streamline operations, boost its proactive communications efforts, and improve its capacity to serve New Yorkers. This includes:
- Starting an email and text campaign to New Yorkers who with completed, processed and payable unemployment benefit claims who are not certifying each week and receiving their benefits;
- Issuing a directive requiring New York-based employers to provide New Yorkers with the information they need to apply for unemployment benefits, including the company's Federal Employer Identification Number;
- Launching a new, streamlined website backed by Google Cloud's infrastructure, which can automatically scale to meet demand, and rolling out an updated application that allows New Yorkers to seamlessly apply for either traditional unemployment insurance or the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance in one system - well before many other states launched their PUA applications;
- Undertaking a major call-back initiative to proactively call New Yorkers with partially completed applications and obtain the information needed to process their claims. To date, the DOL has made over 690,000 proactive calls;
- Increasing the number of Department of Labor representatives handling calls and processing applications from 400 people working five days a week to up to 3,100 individuals working seven days a week; and
- Being among the first states to release the additional $600 weekly payments to unemployed individuals - even before the federal government made funding available.