The New York State Department of Labor today announced that it 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.
"In New York, we are working faster and more aggressively to deliver unemployment benefits than many other states, and in a matter of weeks, we have paid more than $4.6 billion to well over a million New Yorkers," NYS Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said. "We have been throwing everything - including the kitchen sink - at upgrading our systems and increasing our capacity to serve New Yorkers, and we will continue this work until everyone receives their benefits."
Since coronavirus-related shutdowns began impacting businesses across the country in March, states have faced an unprecedented number of new unemployment insurance applications. To date, over 30 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits through the week ending April 25th. The volume of new unemployment claims has reached historic levels, including setting a record for the highest number of weekly claims filed nationwide for the week ending March 28th, which saw 6.8 million new claims -- compared to the previous high before this crisis of 695,000 claims during one week in October 1982. Completed unemployment benefit applications for 1.6 million New Yorkers have been processed since this crisis began -- including 222,040 new claims from the week ending April 25.
In total, New York State has distributed over $4.6 billion in benefits to New Yorkers between March 9 and April 30, including through traditional unemployment insurance and new federal programs like Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which provides benefits for those not covered by traditional unemployment insurance; Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), which provides an additional $600 per week for all benefit recipients; and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), which provides 13 additional weeks of benefits, for a total of 39 weeks of unemployment benefits.
Facing an unprecedented surge in unemployment claims and a large number of partially complete claims with missing or incomplete Federal Employer Identification Numbers, which require a phone call to complete, the Department of Labor has taken decisive action to update its system, streamline operations, and improve its capacity to serve New Yorkers. These efforts include:
- 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 670,000 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.