NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It’s being called the worst economic crisis since The Great Depression.

New numbers out Thursday show 4.4 million more laid-off workers applied for unemployment last week, CBS2’s Alice Gainer reported from Hell’s Kitchen.

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Of the 26 million who have filed for unemployment nationally over the last five weeks, only about 16 million have received checks.

So where does that leave everyone else?


Roy Byers of Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey, filed back in March and so far said he’s only received one check.

“You can call 100 times, you get the same message over and over,” Byers said, referring to the automated message he heard when he tried to inquire in New Jersey.

Brad Sims, of Mendham, New Jersey, first tried filing for unemployment insurance on March 29 after the gym he worked at closed.

“You can’t talk to anyone. Nobody picks up. The system is completely bogged down,” Sims told CBS2’s Jessica Layton.

Several weeks into the pandemic, he hasn’t gotten a dime. When the state finally did confirm the certified personal trainer’s claim, he was told his weekly benefit rate would be zero dollars with no explanation.

“And on another note, I haven’t received my federal $1,200 stimulus check either, so I’m kinda hurting right now,” Sims said.

Watch Jessica Layton’s report

Others said they apply, get a confirmation number, and then nothing.

“I had to open a new claim on Monday, March 23. Since then, it has just been pending,” said Frank Staropoli of Ringwood, New Jersey.

They are among more than 850,000 New Jerseyans hurting. That’s the number that’s filed for unemployment benefits since March 15.

Gov. Phil Murphy addressed the problem this week.

“For those of you trying to connect on the phone, we thank you for your continued patience. The department is still dealing with volumes that are, minimally stated, unprecedented,” Murphy said.

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“There’s a real technical aspect to this. Many of the state systems haven’t been updated with the most current level of software and hardware in decades,” CBS News business analyst Jill Schlesinger said.


New York officials say the majority of the backlog here is for the freelancers, contractors, gig workers and self-employed, those who now qualify for the first time through federal pandemic unemployment insurance, which only went into effect March 27.

Initially, people had several steps to take when applying.

“We have now streamlined that process in New York. That was this past Monday. We rolled out the new form, which you apply one time, then we make the determination which pot you go into,” said Melissa DeRosa, secretary to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The state says it has now put 3,000 workers on the issue.

“We have done far more far faster than I think any other state in the country,” Cuomo said.

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Murphy is also urging people who lost their job but can still work to check out the state’s website for job listings.

“More than 66,000 jobs for more than 740 essential employers across the state,” he said.

So far, New Jersey has paid out about $1 billion in unemployment benefits. New York has paid out more than $2 billion.

As for the unemployed insurance benefits, both Gov. Murphy and Gov. Cuomo insist you’ll get every penny you’re owed.

The problem is those waiting needed that money yesterday.

“We still have to pay mortgage. I just got my first bill for my auto insurance for the year,” Sims said.

For now, they’re helplessly at the mercy of a completely overwhelmed system.

“Guys, it’s time to fix this problem. This is long past broken,” Sims said.

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It’s a public health emergency that’s led to a cash crisis, and neither is going away anytime soon.