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State to roll out revamped jobless claims filing process

An employee answers calls at a state Department

An employee answers calls at a state Department of Labor call center in Albany. Credit: NYS Department of Labor

 The state planned to roll out a streamlined application system for unemployment benefits Thursday night, officials said.  The move comes as more than 55,000 Long Islanders filed jobless claims last week, their numbers likely held down by jammed phone lines and a crashing website.

 Workers who have been unsuccessful in finalizing their claims, many saying they were dialing hundreds of times a day, can stop calling and should expect to receive a call from a state employee within 72 hours, the Department of Labor said Thursday. 

The new online application will have fewer questions and won’t require applicants to call in to speak to a representative,  Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the governor, said at a Thursday news briefing. 

Most filers will be able to complete their applications online.  If more information is needed, an agency staffer will call the claimant within 72 hours. 

 "New Yorkers who have already filed partial claims under the old system and had been told to call the hotline to finish their application should not — instead, the DOL call center will call these New Yorkers directly," the agency said. 

The online system was scheduled to close Thursday at 5 p.m. for the upgrade and reopen Friday at 7:30 a.m.  The filing system is available Monday-Thursday from 7:30 am to 7:30 pm, Friday from 7:30 am to 5 pm, Saturday all day and Sunday until 7 pm. The phone center is open Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 7:30  p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

"Hopefully ... this system will be much better streamlined,"  but "it's a volume issue that we've never experienced," DeRosa said.

The upgrades are the product of partnerships with Google Cloud, Verizon and Deloitte.

The new Google-powered online application can handle a higher volumer of users, allows applicants to save an incomplete application and pick up where they left off, and allows users to access the application on their phone or tablet.

The agency's website is now supported by 60 servers, up from four, officials said.

Verizon will expand phone ports from 1,750 to 10,000, and state officials said 1,200 staffers will be added to the 1,000 now processing claims, including new workers at a call center Deloitte will open. 

“I recognize that this is an extremely challenging time for all New Yorkers,” Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said in a statement. “We want you to be aware of the steps that we are taking to respond to each of you, as quickly as we can.”

On the Island, 55,361 residents filed for unemployment benefits during the week ended April 4, a 3,715% increase from the same week a year ago. The Island had the largest percentage jump in year-over-year unemployment claims of any region in the state  for the second week in a row, according to DOL data.  

Across the state, 347,573 New Yorkers filed unemployment claims last week.

Correction: Due to incorrect information provided by the Department of Labor, an earlier version of this story included incorrect hours for the online application system. 

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