As jobless numbers soar, Cuomo administration defends handling of an avalanche of unemployment claims


ALBANY, NY (WSYR-TV) — New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and his top aide defended the state’s handling of an avalanche of jobless claims in the past five weeks, while acknowledging and understanding the frustrations expressed by New Yorkers trying to collect benefits.

At his daily COVID-19 news briefing on Thursday, Cuomo was asked about the complaints news organizations continue to receive from the jobless who can’t get their claims processed.

Cuomo said New York had done “far more, far faster than I think any other state in the country, and the number of people who have gotten assistance is mind boggling. But none of that matters. For a person, there is only one check that matters, and that is their check, and I get that.”

Melissa DeRosa, Secretary to the Governor said the majority of cases that remained backlogged are those of the self employed, independent contractors, or gig workers, who typically aren’t covered under unemployment insurance.

On March 27, Congress passed the CARES act which covered those workers, but DeRosa says in intial requirements that people applying for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance be rejected by traditional unemployment first.

The state earlier this week unveiled a streamlined application process.

But this week NewsChannel 9 continued to hear from viewers who’ve been waiting a month or more for help.

This was typical of the complaints we’ve received.

 I applied for unemployment as an independent contractor a month ago since my work as a contractor is non essential and I’m trying to do my part by staying home. I have not not received and sort of confirmation or phone call. I call literally 100 times a day and have sent many messages on the website to get no response. It says you will receive a call within 72 hours but that is not true.

When businesses began closing in mid-March because of COVID-19, the state unemployment phone system and computer systems continually crashed as the systems could not keep up with the number of new claims.

The U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday that 4.4 million Americans filed new unemployment insurance claims last week, bringing the total for the month since COVID-19 hit to 26 million.

That wipes out all the job gains since the depths of the Great Recession of 2008.

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