B is the first letter of Cherry Bald’s last name, so she knows to call on Mondays to sign up for her unemployment benefits based on directions from the state.
On Monday, she said she must have called the state Department of Labor more than 130 times. No luck.
“It is frustrating when you cannot get through, and when you finally do get through … then all of the sudden it says all of our representatives are busy, call back again later,” Bald said.
“You go through the whole process and they say call another time and they hang up. So it is just annoying and you constantly call and call.”
She was laid off March 13 from a daycare center, and although her job is waiting for her once the coronavirus spread halts, no one seems to know when that might be.
The state Department of Labor acknowledges that it is getting overwhelmed with calls and web traffic. The traffic and calls have erupted since News 4 reported on this problem March 19.
“Our team is literally working around the clock to make sure that all New Yorkers get their benefits,” said a department spokeswoman.
“Our dedicated representatives are doing the best they can to make sure everyone is served, as quickly as possible, even if it takes a longer than usual.”
From March 16 to March 21, the department has received 1,734,100 calls and more than 2,270,300 web hits for unemployment.
On Wednesday, March 18, the New York State Department of Labor website was averaging about 250,000 logins per day – a 400% increase over the normal average.
By the end of the day Thursday, March 19, the department received more than 532,000 site visits from New Yorkers filing unemployment claims.
“We realize that New Yorkers are worried that if they don’t get through right away, they will not get their benefits, but we are trying to make it clear, and to get the message out, that everyone will receive their FULL benefit back to the date of unemployment,” the department spokesman said.
To address this unprecedented increase, the department has taken the following actions:
- Added server capacity;
- Increased bandwidth;
- Extended phone hours; and
- Dedicated more than 700 staff members to address the influx.
In addition, the department created a new, more efficient filing system based on the first letter of the applicant’s last name (alphabetical order) and said this is very important for people to follow.
Call or use the website on the following days based on the first letter of your last name:
- A – F : Monday
- G – N : Tuesday
- O – Z : Wednesday
- Missed your day: Thursday and Friday
The department will also be hiring another 65 or more individuals to staff the call centers and will add more as it is able.
“We’re seeing over a 1000% increase in claims in some areas across the State,” the department spokeswoman said.
“And we appreciate the public’s patience during this unprecedented time.”