What to know about unemployment claims: the NYS Department of Labor Commissioner shares some advice

Maya Rajamani
April 30, 2020 - 2:02 pm

    NEW YORK (1010 WINS) -- Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the U.S. has seen an “unprecedented increase” in the number of unemployment claims filed, New York State Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon says. 

    In New York State, more than 1.5 million people who filed claims have received more than $3 billion in benefits in a six-week span, according to Reardon — but many who are partially or fully unemployed are still waiting on financial help. 

    “I understand those numbers might not matter to someone who is waiting on their check — I have been unemployed before myself,” Reardon said in a teleconference with reporters on Thursday. “And I want you to know, we are all working as hard as we can to deliver you your benefits.”

    During the teleconference, the commissioner shared some facts and advice for New Yorkers who are planning to file claims or are still waiting to receive benefits after filing.

    • Have your Federal Employer Identification Number ready before you start your application

    The number one reason claims are listed as “partially complete” and cannot immediately be processed? An incorrect or missing Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN), Reardon says. “Correcting that issue requires a phone call from a DOL representative to the claimant, which significantly slows down the application process,” she said. Businesses in New York State are legally obligated to provide their workers with the information they need to apply for unemployment insurance, including the FEIN, she noted. 

    • The “fastest, most reliable” way to receive your benefits is via direct deposit into an existing checking account, Reardon says

    New Yorkers who are currently receiving benefits on a KeyBank debit card can switch to direct deposit by going to the Department of Labor website, logging in with a NY.gov ID, clicking on “Unemployment Services,” clicking on “Update Your Personal Information” and clicking on “Update/Register for Direct Deposit.” 

    • Don’t submit more than one unemployment insurance claim, Reardon advises

    “Some people have made multiple claims. I understand they came in, they filed, nothing happened, they thought their claim didn’t go through, so they came in and applied again,” she said. “We have at least one person who submitted 20 claims. That... makes it more difficult for us. Trying to figure out who’s a duplicate and who we actually have to reach becomes a bigger problem."

    • Every New Yorker who has lost a job will be “made whole back to the day that they were severed from work,” according to Reardon

    “We are working the phones seven days a week; we are working through the backlog seven days a week; and we are endeavoring to reach every person who has filed a claim. We will reach them,” she said

    • New Yorkers who were affected by the New York State Unemployment Insurance data breach will receive free credit monitoring services and identity theft surveillance

    At least three dozen people who filed unemployment claims “received another person’s information in the mail,” Buffalo-based WKBW reported on Monday. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s secretary on Monday said this happened because “two pieces of paper were stuck together and sent,” according to the outlet. Reardon on Thursday said the breach was caused by “mechanical error” involving mail-sorting machine, adding that it “was not malicious.” “We have taken the machine in question out of service, and it will not go back into service until we are sure that it’s going to run completely perfectly,” she said. The department is also setting up a “dedicated email address” for those who were impacted. 

    • The DOL takes language access “very, very seriously,” Reardon says

    In addition to employing multilingual staffers, the department has access to services from LanguageLine Solutions that translate for it in “many, many languages.” “We are dedicated to making sure that anyone who comes into the Department of Labor… can talk to us and hear us in a language that they are comfortable in,” she said. 

    • If you’re waiting for a call from the DOL, make sure you pick up your phone if you get a call from a “private caller” 

    “If you have not gotten your call yet, you will,” Reardon said. “Be sure to pick up your phone when it says 'private caller' — it could be one of us calling from a remote work location.” 

    • The DOL is trying to handle claims in chronological order, but it isn’t always able to, “for a variety of reasons” 

    “Some people get their claims much faster because they were just able to go online, do their claims, finish it up, never had to talk to anyone — boom, they’re done,” Reardon said. “Sometimes we call and they’re not there, (so) we go to the next person.” But the department will loop back and keep calling if they haven’t reached the person yet, she noted. 

    • Anyone who has filed a claim can check the status of the claim online

    “If they haven’t signed into My.NY.Gov, they should go in there, set up their account, get their pin number and then they can go in and check on their account themselves,” Reardon said. 

    • Don’t use a nickname when you file your claim

    “If my name’s Roberta, but if my nickname was Bobby, and my Social Security name said ‘Roberta,’ and I filed as ‘Bobby,’ that would be a problem,” Reardon said. Applicants should use the name and number on their Social Security card.

    • If you made a mistake when you filled out your claim, someone from the DOL will contact you

    So far, the department has made more than 650,000 calls to New Yorkers as part of its effort to process every claim, Reardon said. “We really are asking people, please do not call us unless you absolutely have to. Because even at 650,000 calls a day, we can’t handle all of them. And we want to keep the lines open for the people who really need to talk to us,” she said. “We will call you if there’s an error on your claim. We don’t just throw the claim away. We make sure that if there’s a problem, we call you to figure out what’s wrong with it. Trying to figure out who’s a duplicate and who we actually have to reach becomes a bigger problem."

    • The DOL has taken a number of steps to improve its system since the pandemic began

    Since the outbreak started, the department launched a new online application in partnership with the New York State Office of Information Technology Services and Google Cloud that leverages cloud services to instantly scale to the number of New Yorkers who log in to file a claim,” Reardon said. The new system provides New Yorkers with a “single process” to apply for either traditional unemployment insurance or the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), a federal program that is part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. 

    • The DOL has significantly increased its staff as it works to address all of the claims it has received

    Before the pandemic, 400 people were working five days a week to answer phones and call people who had filed unemployment insurance claims, according to Reardon. Now, approximately 3,100 staffers are working seven days a week to answer phones and make “proactive calls to those with partially complete applications,” she said.