Skyrocketing Unemployment Claims ‘Collapsed’ New York’s System, Cuomo Says

April 22, 2020 Updated: April 22, 2020

New York state’s unemployment website system “collapsed” following a surge in applicants after the state ordered the closure of nonessential businesses to slow transmission of the CCP virus pandemic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on April 21.

Cuomo said there are now 1,000 people working to cope with the surge in applications, as they process unemployment claims online and though New York’s phone system.

“It’s unbelievable,” Cuomo said at a press conference in Buffalo. “One thousand people just to take the incoming unemployment calls. That’s how high the volume is and they still can’t keep up with the volume.”

According to state data, roughly 1.1 million people in New York have received $2.2 billion in unemployment insurance benefits since outbreak of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus.

Medical workers arrive for their shift
Medical workers arrive for their shift at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center during the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City on April 21, 2020. Cindy Ord/Getty Images)

Roughly 95 percent of the U.S. population is now under stay-at-home orders, and many factories, restaurants, stores, and other businesses are closed or have seen sales shrivel.

New York City, in the week of March 22, saw the filing of nearly 144,000 unemployment claims—up 2,637 percent from the same time period last year, which saw about 5,300 claims, The New York Times reported.

The state said that while it still has a backlog of 4,305 phone applications, this figure has been significantly reduced from before April 8, when there was a backlog of 275,000 applications via telephone.

Cuomo told reporters that “there’s nothing worse than being unemployed and nervous about a paycheck” and being unable to get though on the phone when calling to apply for unemployment benefits.

“I get it. I get it. And we have 1,000 people working on it,” the governor said. “We have Google working on it and we have all these experts working on it. They are trying to bring up a system that did a much, much lower capacity.”

Cuomo acknowledged that while the delays may be “frustrating,” everyone will receive the amount that they are entitled to.

“Once you qualify, the qualification is retroactive, so you’re going to get the same benefit,” he said.

A record 22 million Americans have filed claims for unemployment benefits over the past month, wiping out almost all the job gains since the 2009 recession. In a move to soften the blow, President Donald Trump signed a historic $2.2 trillion fiscal package last month that makes provisions for small businesses to access loans that could be partially forgiven if they were used for employee salaries.

The president on Tuesday announced he would be place a “temporary suspension of immigration into the United States,” implementing a 60-day pause on the issuance of green cards in order to reduce competition for jobs in the United States.

The suspension only applies to those seeking permanent residency, not temporary workers, he said.

“By pausing immigration we’ll help put unemployed Americans first in line for jobs as America reopens, so important,” Trump said at the White House. “It would be wrong and unjust for Americans laid off by the virus to be replaced with new immigrant labor flown in from abroad.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.