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New York to reboot its overloaded unemployment system

The statistics related to the coronavirus are staggering.

So are the numbers resulting from unemployment in New York State.

Last week, more than 350,000 New Yorkers filed for unemployment benefits. In the past month, the total is 810,000 unemployment claims. There are 1,000 people employed by the state to process the deluge of claims.

More than 200,000 New Yorkers have not been able to fully apply for unemployment benefits largely because the immense number of people seeking relief overwhelmed the state processing system. Many have been left frustrated with hold times and other delays that, in some cases, result in frustrated workers spending days trying to connect to the system to file a claim.

"The technology at the Department of Labor – the system just crashed because of the volume," Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Thursday in Albany. "It's one of those unanticipated consequences of a situation like this. ... We're doing everything we can."

The state says its website and phone lines have been revamped in recent days, with a new software system worked on in cooperation with Google.

The Department of Labor shut down its online unemployment insurance application at 5 p.m. Thursday to allow for upgrades, said Dani Lever, communications director for  Cuomo.

"As we are currently migrating to a new system today, applications will be accepted beginning at 7:30 a.m. (Friday)," Lever said. "When workers log in to the Department of Labor's system, they will find a new, improved and more user-friendly application allowing them to better access the benefits they deserve."

Officials said that they have continued to add to the workforce that is processing unemployment claims.

"We have 1,000 people who are now working on just personnel for that incoming system," Cuomo said. "Think about that – 1,000 people who are working on processing applications for unemployment applications. That was the number we used to get of applicants."

The governor maintained that while applications might be delayed, that any individual applying for benefits would receive them.

"The government shuts down the private-sector economy, you have millions out of work, the next shoe to drop is going to be millions of people calling for unemployment benefits, crashing the system that handles the benefits," Cuomo said.

Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa said that about 600,000 unemployment claims have been processed over the last month, with 200,000 outstanding.

DeRosa said that the unemployment website would go down between 5 and 7 p.m. Thursday to reboot following the effort with Google to fortify the system. Earlier this week, DeRosa said that some of the Department of Labor's phone lines were rebuilt with Verizon.

"It's a volume situation that we've never experienced," DeRosa said.

She said the upgraded system will be streamlined, with fewer questions on the unemployment form. Also, if there are any blanks or questions regarding the form, she said the state will now call individuals within 72 hours to get that information. Thus far, missing information has prompted applicants to call the state, which led to phone lines crashing.

"The 1,000 people on the phone lines will be reaching out directly to the people, so the people don't have to go through this infuriating process of calling and getting busy signals and thereby collapsing the systems.

"Hopefully," she said, knocking on wood, "the system will be much better streamlined.",

New York sees new daily high for deaths; unemployment system being rebuilt

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