New York: Americans are seeking unemployment benefits at unprecedented levels due to the coronavirus, but many are finding more frustration than relief. About 10 million people applied for unemployment benefits in the two weeks ended March 27.
State websites and phone lines across the country have been overwhelmed with applicants causing sites to crash, phone lines to ring busy and much-needed payments to be delayed.
While many states are doing their best to respond adding staff, updating technology and streamlining the process it’s tough to keep up with the pace of demand.
“There’s no hospital system in the world that’s designed to handle what we’re dealing with,” Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted told reporters. “Our unemployment compensation system’s the same way.”
New York’s Department of Labor said its phone system recorded more than 8.2 million calls last week, compared with 50,000 in a typical week. Its online filing system received 3.4 million visits during that time, compared to the usual 350,000. The site has crashed several times in recent weeks under the burden.
“It is not working as smoothly as I would like to see it,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said. “It’s compounding people’s stress.”
Congress has passed a massive relief package that expanded who is eligible for unemployment benefits adding gig, contract and other part time workers who wouldn’t normally qualify.
Benefits are open to others who’ve been impacted, such as workers who were quarantined, left work due to risk of exposure or to care for a family member....