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$2.2B in jobless benefits paid to 1.1 million New Yorkers

The state has gone from 400 call center

The state has gone from 400 call center workers handling unemployment claims to 3,100, officials said.  Credit: NYS Department of Labor

New York State has paid $2.2 billion in unemployment benefits to 1.1 million New Yorkers since the COVID-19 crisis began, the Department of Labor said.

The agency said it has made a significant dent in the backlog of applications caused by an unprecedented number of layoffs due to the pandemic shutdown.

Applicants had reported dealing with a frequently crashing online application system and logjammed phone lines for weeks.  DOL said it has reduced the call backlog from around 275,000 New Yorkers prior to April 8 to 4,305 as of Monday.

The filing process underwent a major overhaul earlier this month when the department rolled out a streamlined application with fewer questions and added more server capacity to prevent website crashes.

As part of that update, the agency changed its phone protocol so that applicants wouldn’t be expected to call in to finalize applications and instead wait for a call from the Labor Department within 72 hours of submitting an application.

DOL said it now has more than 3,100 representatives “solely dedicated to answering unemployment benefit needs” over the phone. Prior to the pandemic, the agency said it had 400 representatives at its call center.

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