NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — With so many people out of work in the tri-state area, the labor departments of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are all facing an unprecedented number of unemployment claims.
Bartender Mike Desposito has been out of work since the upscale Manhattan restaurant ABC Cocina closed in March amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I was trying to get through to them every day, I’d say about 50 to 100 times a day,” Desposito said.
Every day since, he’s been trying to file a claim for unemployment benefits with the state department of labor.
“Most of the time you would call the number and it would just immediately disconnect you,” he said.
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Performer Marti Gouldcummings tried bypassing the phone by filling out an application on the state website.
“It was like crash, crash, crash crash crash, refresh refresh refresh refresh,” he said. “I finally got through and I filled something out and it said, oh, you have to call this number.”
Thousands of New Yorkers are sharing similar frustrations online, posting their logs of countless calls to the labor department over the past few weeks.
“I call every single day,” said Stephanie McGovern, a Suffolk County preschool teacher.
McGovern shared her experience with CBS2’s Ali Bauman over the phone.
“My husband is a first responder, so I’m home alone with three kids,” she said. “The money I was making, while it wasn’t a tremendous amount, it was paying bills, and now I’m not gonna be able to pay those bills.”
The state says its unemployment hotline had a 16,000% increase in phone calls last week with over 8 million incoming calls. Typically, they only get about 50,000 calls a week.
“We have every technology company working on it,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
The governor’s office says they’ve reassigned hundreds of workers from different agencies to man the unemployment call center and has extended its hours.
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“Do I lose all of that money and all those benefits because I didn’t do it on time?” Desposito said.
The labor department says every New Yorker eligible for unemployment insurance will receive their entire benefit, even if they file late.
“If we don’t have those checks coming in from unemployment for May or June…” Gouldcummings said.
The state says it’s still hiring more workers and adding more resources to keep up with the calls, but for now, New Yorkers just have to be patient.