BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW-TV) — 7 Eyewitness News continues to hear from viewers who are having problems getting New York State unemployment benefits.
Sophia Overton, a Buffalo nurse who specializes in diabetes education, is one of them. Overton was among the 1,200 people furloughed by Catholic Health in late-April.
Overton tells Reporter Ed Reilly that she thought everything was set after submitting her online application. When her benefits didn't arrive this week, as she was expecting, the Buffalo woman went online to see why - only to find an 'error message' showing her claim was there and saying she needed to call the NYS Department of Labor.
When she called multiple times, a recorded message says she needs to speak to a representative. The phone call then abruptly hangs up.
Overton said she is continuing to try and reach someone. "Many of the reports say to be patient because they are backlogged. But they are still getting a paycheck. We are not."
The NYS Department of Labor has acknowledged the problems caused by a crushing number of applications for benefits. The Labor Department's call center has seen a 1,600% increase in volume, said Commissioner Roberta Reardon.
Reardon said employees are working "around the clock" to help people get their benefits - money that Governor Cuomo has promised to pay in-full despite the delays.
However, the Department of Labor said it is finding some common mistakes that are holding up processing of benefits.
- The first involves the weekly certification that is required by federal law. Commissioner Reardon said a process is now underway to contact applicants by email to explain how they need to complete the certification process.
- The next problem involves people calling the wrong number. Traditional Unemployment and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance have different 800 numbers:
TRADITIONAL UNEMPLOYMENT 1-888-581-5812
PANDEMIC UNEMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE 1-833-324-0366
- And the biggest problem found, explained Commissioner Reardon, is missing or inaccurate FEDERAL EMPLOYER IDENTIFICATION NUMBERS (also known as FEIN or EIN). Businesses are required by law to provide those numbers to their employees.
Sophia Overton wonders how people can fix problems with their application if they can't get in touch with anyone either online or by phone. "Hopefully, they can work out the kinks so someone else doesn't have this problem," said Overton.
7 Eyewitness News contacted the NYS Department of Labor about Sophia Overton's complaint. Our email was acknowledged but it is the Labor Department's policy to not discuss details about individual applications.