The New York State Department of Labor today announced a new initiative to proactively inform New Yorkers of the status of their unemployment benefit application to help them follow its progress. The effort, part of a broader campaign to proactively communicate with New Yorkers applying for unemployment benefits, will use emails and text messages to keep New Yorkers informed throughout the process — from submission to approval.
In addition, the Department of Labor announced that $6.8 billion in unemployment benefits has been paid to New York workers since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. This amount, paid over the course of two months, is more than three times the $2.1 billion the department paid in total unemployment benefits during 2019.
“Like every state, New York is facing a historic surge in unemployment claims — but we are moving faster than other states to get money into the hands of New Yorkers, and in just two months we’ve paid over three years’ worth of benefits,” NYS Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said. “I’ve been unemployed before myself, I know that losing your job is extremely anxiety-inducing, and I hope these new efforts to communicate directly to New Yorkers as their applications are processed will help make this difficult time a little less stressful.”
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, 33 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits, including more than 1.8 million New Yorkers. This unprecedented surge has strained states’ ability to process applications and deliver payments to those who are unemployed.
In New York, the Department of Labor has rapidly increased its capacity to accept applications, process claims, and pay benefits — including through a partnership with Google Cloud to build a new online unemployment application. The department has also enhanced its communications efforts, including issuing a directive to remind New York-based employers they are required to provide unemployed New Yorkers with the information they need to apply for benefits; contacting individuals with completed, payable claims to ensure they submit federally required weekly certifications to release their payments; and launching a new online process that will allow New Yorkers who did not certify in previous weeks to submit certifications for prior weeks and receive their money faster and easier.
The Department of Labor’s newest initiative will further those efforts by creating a system to regularly inform New Yorkers about the status of their unemployment benefit application and provide updates as their application is processed. The new mechanism will email or text New Yorkers at various steps throughout the application process and inform them of next steps they must take. Inflection points that will result in a message include:
- When an application is submitted;
- When an application is processed; and
- When a claim becomes payable.
In addition, the Department of Labor has:
- Rolled out a new, streamlined online 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;
- Launched 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; and
- Increased 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.