The New York State Department of Labor Unemployment released a public service announcement telling residents the department has made changes to meet the increased demand of those filing for unemployment amid the coronavirus pandemic.  Credit: New York State of Labor

 The state Department of Labor adopted a new "don't call us, we'll call you" protocol on Friday, April 10, after its phone lines were overwhelmed by thousands of New Yorkers calling to try to complete their unemployment claims. 

The new phone system accompanies a revamped online application process, which should allow most filers to complete their claims without a follow-up phone call.  If more information is needed, an agency staffer will call you within 72 hours.

If you used the old online application and were directed to call DOL to complete your claim, you should stop calling and wait for a call from a DOL representative, the agency said. 

An expansion of unemployment benefits was included in a federal economic relief bill signed into law in March, providing an extra $600 a week through July 31 on top of the unemployment aid that states provide, and extending benefits for 13 weeks beyond the standard six months.

The legislation also extends unemployment benefits, for the first time, to gig workers and sole proprietors under its Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. 

Here are answers to common questions about the filing process:

How do I file a claim?

File online if you can. (The state hasn't allowed in-person applications since 2005.)

To do so, go to The site contains links to how-to guides for filing your claim.

You may file online Monday-Sunday from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Click LOGIN and sign in with your account if you have one. If you don't have an account, scroll down to "Don't have an account?" and follow the instructions.

If you must file by phone, call 888-209-8124. 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.

To reduce stress on the online filing system and phone lines, DOL has assigned filing days for new claims based on the first letter of your last name. 

A-F: Monday

G-N: Tuesday

O-Z: Wednesday

Missed your day: Thursday through Sunday

Any claim you file will be backdated to the date you became unemployed. If you are eligible, you will be paid for all benefits due.

How long will it take to receive my first unemployment check?

Once a claim is complete, payments will be issued as soon as a week. Those who select direct deposit will likely receive their payment faster than those who select a check or debit card option.

How much will I get?

Your benefit rate is based on your recent wages. The current maximum weekly benefit rate in New York is $504.

Will I receive the additional $600 on top of that?

Yes. Those who are approved for unemployment benefits do not have to do anything else to be qualified for the additional $600 a week starting April 5 through July 31.

How long will my benefits last?

If you are still unemployed after the standard 26-week benefit period, you will receive up to 13 additional weeks of checks.

Am I still required to provide proof that I’m searching for a job?

Generally, you do not have to search for work if you were laid off because your employer closed or reduced operations due to COVID-19, and your employer told you that you will be called back to work when the business reopens.

Barring that, you must search for work. The DOL said it is aware of the challenges to finding a job amid the pandemic crisis, but said applicants must make their best effort.

The agency said benefit recipients must make sure to document their work search efforts and must submit proof of them if asked. Claimants risk losing their benefits if they do not search for work and submit proof of search efforts if asked. 

I have not been laid off but I am not receiving any income because my employer is currently closed. Can I file for unemployment?

If you are not being paid your normal rate, you should file for unemployment insurance.

Can I apply for unemployment to supplement some of my lost income due to a severe reduction in hours?

Yes.  If you earn less than $504 per week, you may be eligible for partial unemployment. You should file a claim to determine if you are eligible.

What type of information do I need to apply for unemployment?

Gather your information before filing a claim: SSN, driver's license information, your last W-2 (for employer information, employer number and wages); if you want direct deposit, get your account number and routing number.

If my former employer contests my unemployment claim, am I out of luck?

While that can happen, DOL recommends that you respond promptly to requests for further information; this can help the department make a determination faster.

Will any assistance be provided to applicants who may not be familiar with computers or using the internet?

Yes. The DOL will provide technical assistance through email or over the phone. 

Do you have to be a U.S. citizen, or be eligible to work in the United States, to get unemployment insurance?

Yes. To be eligible, a worker must be legally authorized to work in the United States. .

Are freelancers or gig workers such as Uber drivers now eligible for unemployment? 

Traditionally, independent contractors working in New York State are not eligible. However, under the recently signed federal expansions of unemployment coverage, they may be. Such workers can apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. For informaton on how to apply, go to

Are sole proprietors or owners of single-employee businesses eligible?

Like independent contractors, self-employed individuals working in New York have traditionally not been eligible, but they may be under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program and should apply.

What if I was already receiving unemployment benefits?

There are a few different situations regarding exhausted/expired benefits. 

- If your benefit year expired after July 1, 2019, you will need to file a new claim to receive 13 additional weeks of benefits. You will receive a letter in the mail from the DOL with more details.

- If your benefit year has not expired, but you exhausted your 26 weeks of benefits, you will receive a letter from DOL advising you to begin certifying to receive the additional 13 weeks of benefits.

- If your benefit year has not expired, but you stopped claiming benefits before your 26 weeks were up (for example, if you went back to work), begin certifying for benefits again to start receiving benefits.

Are unemployment benefits taxable income?

Yes. Unemployment benefits are subject to state and federal taxes.