New York governor Andrew Cuomo has apologized to stressed New Yorkers trying to apply for unemployment insurance on a site that has been repeatedly crashing, as the state revealed Thursday almost 450,000 initial unemployment claims have been filed in the past two weeks.
The New York State Department of Labor has been "deluged" with people trying to apply for unemployment, Gov. Cuomo said. "It keeps crashing because you literally have hundreds of thousands of people at any time trying to get on the site."
It's little wonder given the extraordinary unemployment figures nationwide. Last week, 3.28 million people sought first-time unemployment benefits. This week, that number doubled to 6.6 million. (Before the pandemic, the all-time record for first-time jobless benefit claims was 695,000 in early 1982.)
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The number of New Yorkers filing for unemployment was similarly extraordinary. Last week, 369,025 unemployment insurance claims were filed. The week before, 80,509.
The regions with the fastest increase in initial claims were Long Island, Western New York and Hudson County. New York City had the greatest number of initial claims -- 138,000, while 50,976 Long Islanders applied last week.
The hardest-hit industries, according to the department, were Other Services, Accommodation and Food Services, Arts, Entertainment and Recreation, Healthcare and Social Assistance and Educational Services.
In the five days from Mar. 23 - 28 the department got 3.4 million hits on its site for online unemployment filing. That compared to 350,000 in a typical week, representing an increase in web traffic of nearly 900%. In that same period it fielded over 8.2 million calls -- a 16,000% increase from its average of 50,000 calls per week.
The governor assured New Yorkers the state was working on the issues, but the numbers the department was dealing with was unprecedented.
"It's compounding people's stress," he said. "You're unemployed, you're trying to get on some darn website, you can't get through the website. We have companies working on it. We have literally hundreds of people working on it. I apologize for the pain -- it must be infuriating to deal with."
The governor said New York had tech companies working on the problems and that it was spending a lot of money to fix the issues. The department had increased server capacity and dedicated 700 staff members to an unemployment insurance hotline. The department assured New Yorkers that even if your filing is delayed, you will still receive the entire benefit you are entitled to.
It also asked New Yorkers to "reduce the surge" by only filing unemployment insurance claims on certain days, based on the first letter of their last name:
- Monday: Last name starts A-F
- Tuesday: Last name starts G-N
- Wednesday: Last name starts O-Z
- Thursday, Friday, Saturday: all last names
New Yorkers have been scrambling to apply for unemployment insurance amid mass closures and job losses. The state has agreed to waive the 7-Day waiting period for unemployment insurance benefits for people who are out of work due to COVID-19 closures or quarantines.