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New York is swamped with unemployment claims. Here’s how to navigate that

Make sure you apply on the right day of the week

March 18, 2020 Mary Frost
With so many businesses closed in New York due to the coronavirus outbreak, unemployment claims have gone through the roof. Shown: the iconic Junior’s Restaurant in Downtown Brooklyn has shut its doors. Photo: Mary Frost/Brooklyn Eagle
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With restaurants, bars, shops, theaters and thousands of other businesses closed because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, unemployment claims are soaring, according to the New York State Department of Labor.

The agency has been swamped, but says it is implementing changes to make sure everyone gets the benefits they’re entitled to.

DOL has received ten times its usual volume of phone calls and more than double the usual number of website visits. By noon on Tuesday, the department received more than 21,000 phone calls, compared to 2,000 in total last Tuesday. Also on Tuesday, DOL received 110,000 website visits, compared to 42,000 last Tuesday.

Traffic has surged so much that there have been “intermittent interruptions in service,” DOL said.

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

“Providing unemployment insurance benefits is DOL’s number one priority and everyone who is entitled to UI benefits will receive them in a timely manner,” the department said. “DOL is adding staff and will be expanding hours to help address the rapid influx.”

In a procedural change, filing for benefits is now based on the first letter of the applicant’s last name. People whose last name begins with A through F should file on Monday; G through N on Tuesday; and O through Z on Wednesday. If you missed your day, you can file on Thursday or Friday. Filing later in the week will not delay payments or affect the date of your claim, since all claims are effective on the Monday of the week in which they are filed.

The Labor Department is also extending telephone filing hours as follows:
– Monday through Thursday: 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
– Friday: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
– Saturday 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

All in-person appointments at Career Centers in New York State have been canceled until further notice because of the COVID-19 outbreak. Unemployment Insurance benefits will not be impacted, however.

To apply for benefits, you must log in to the New York Department of Labor website at or apply by calling the Telephone Claims Center at 888-209-8124.

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  1. Even so, the website doesn’t work. My wife was faced with layoffs on Friday and we have not been able to file the claim because of an error message all week. We have tried our phones, a Mac, a PC, and calling. Every pathway ends with an error message before the claim is filed. The message doesn’t say much, but does say there is overwhelming volume. I think it’s time to extend the weekly deadlines considering the unprecedented situation and inadequate Department of Labor technology. Help! Now what??