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Because millions of American workers have lost their jobs because of measures taken to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, state labor departments have been overwhelmed with unemployment claims.
Initial jobless claims in the U.S. last week hit the highest level in recorded history – at nearly 3.3 million.
And the situation is likely to become more challenging.
James Bullard, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, said during an interview with Bloomberg over the weekend that the U.S. unemployment rate could hit 30 percent during the second quarter. The Economic Policy Institute has predicted that as many as 14 million Americans could find themselves without a job by summer.
The outbreak is hitting New York State -- specifically the greater New York City area -- far harder than any other part of the country.
As of Friday, there were 44,745 cases in the state, and 25,573 in New York City.
The New York State Labor Department of Labor said that initial unemployment insurance claims last week surged 520 percent – more than 80,500 – when compared with the same period last year.
During the week, the New York State Department of Labor received more than 1,734,100 total calls and over 2,270,300 web hits.
To address the massive increase in volume, the agency posted an update on its website notifying individuals as to when they should file their claim, which is based on the first letter of your last name.
If your last name starts with A - F, file your claim on Monday
For last names starting with G - N, file your claim on Tuesday
For last names starting with O - Z, file your claim on Wednesday
Missed your filing day? Call on file on Thursday, Friday or Saturday
“Filing later in the week will not delay your payments or affect the date of your claim, since all claims are effective on the Monday of the week in which they are filed,” officials noted.
On the bright side, once your application does get processed, you are on the hook for getting more cash thanks to new legislation signed by President Trump on Friday.
Under the $2 trillion legislation, additional emergency benefits will be provided to each recipient. In dollar terms, on top of state benefits, eligible Americans can receive an additional $600 per week for as many as four months.
The bill provides for an additional 13 weeks offered by the federal government after state benefits are no longer available through the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program. That means for a state with 26 weeks of coverage, the total would be extended to 39 weeks.
Benefits will also be expanded to the self-employed, independent contractors, gig workers and others – through a new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. This would provide as many as 39 weeks’ worth of benefits to workers who wouldn’t traditionally qualify, but have found themselves out of work, unable to work or with reduced hours as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
New Yorkers seeking to file unemployment claims can visit labor.ny.gov or call the Telephone Claim Center at 888-209-8124.