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Job seekers line up outside the New Hampshire Works employment security job center, Monday, May 10, 2021, in Manchester, N.H. States are pushing the unemployed to get back to work to help businesses large and small find the workers they need to emerge from the COVID-19 recession. Now some states are reinstating a requirement that anyone who collects unemployment must look for work. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — New York’s unemployed are going back to work after record numbers of unemployed throughout the state in 2020. Two local organizations said people are still reporting problems navigating the world of unemployment.

The organizations said people are still looking for help connecting with someone at the New York State Department of Labor (DOL), claim denials, and appeals for overpayments.

To accommodate the large number of New Yorkers that found themselves without a job at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, a year ago, the DOL worked with Google to create a new app and made other changes to help people with claims including expansion of work hours for DOL employees along with extended call center hours.

Local organizations also stepped up to assist people with unemployment claims. The New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) began a pro bono partnership with volunteer attorneys to help people navigate through the unemployment system last April.

“At first inquiries from clients were centered around how to apply for benefits, questions about supplemental benefits, navigating the DOL website, and contacting the DOL by phone during a time when DOL employees were overwhelmed with calls,” said NYSBA Chief Communications Strategist, Susan DeSantis.

Since then, inquiries have also included representation at unemployment insurance hearings and appeals, questions about back payments, self-employment, gaps in employment, benefit extensions, and overpayment appeals, she said.

It can take between three to six weeks for people to receive money on new unemployment claims, according to the DOL website. For someone out of work it could feel like a lot longer, said Senior Attorney at the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York (LASNNY), Anthony Mohen.

Like the NYSBA, LASNNY has been helping people with unemployment claims since the beginning of the pandemic. Mohen said they still receive a steady volume of calls related to unemployment benefits.

In response to COVID-19 LASNNY set up the Legal Aid Line to help low-income people with legal problems stemming from COVID last year and continues to be available.

Get help with unemployment benefits

Deanna Cohen, Deputy Director of Communications, said the DOL is doing all it can to help New Yorkers with unemployment benefits referencing the state’s achievements with regard to unemployment claims over the past year.

“Every state’s unemployment system has been tested during this crisis, but in New York, we have moved mountains to connect more than 4.6 million New Yorkers with over $84.1 billion in benefits, while launching a new Google-backed application, updating our phone system, increasing communication with New Yorkers, and instituting new Federal programs before other states and we will continue to do what it takes to serve New Yorkers in need,” she said.

It’s important for people to listen to prompts carefully when calling the DOL to be connected with the right agent, use the chatbot on the DOL website to get answers to frequently asked questions, and reapply for benefits if they’ve reached their Benefit Year-End, said, Cohen.

Having trouble getting through to the DOL and need to speak with someone? Sending a message to the DOL online through NY.gov is the best way to avoid a long wait on the phone, said Mohen. For more extensive help, contacting an organization from the list above can also help put people in touch with a DOL representative or help them decide what steps to take, he said.

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