Deemed "non-essential," small biz owner finds frustrations with unemployment claim

Owner wonders why she is being asked to supply duplicate information?
Posted at 5:01 PM, Apr 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-17 10:31:31-04

WEST SENECA, N.Y. (WKBW-TV) — After being overwhelmed by the number of people making unemployment claims due to Covid-19, New York State revamped the online application process with help from Google. Governor Andrew Cuomo said 1,000 people are now assigned to handle claims.

But does the system still have problems?

Michelle Zak, self-employed owner of "Super Pawz Pet Grooming" in West Seneca, feels it does. "The guy I talked with said he had just been trained to do this. Did he do everything properly? I don't know."

Zak is frustrated because more than three weeks after being told her unemployment claim was 'good-to-go,' and would start paying benefits on Monday March 23, she still has not received any money.

"I not only have bills to pay at home but I have bills to pay at that shop. I own the building," added Zak.

Adding to the frustration, Zak received a form letter in the mail on April 13 saying she needed to submit much of the same information that she already entered online. In addition, Zak needed to include copies of her last three years of tax returns - and not just the two months worth she supplied in mid-March.

"They could have emailed this to me. They could have emailed this and I would have gotten it in a day, instead of it coming by snail mail," commented Zak.

The small business owner said many of her fellow pet groomers are having the same sort of problems collecting unemployment benefits.

Zak closed her shop on March 12 to comply with government orders for non-essential business - even though she felt pet groomers practice so much hygiene on a regular basis that those operations could have continued without risk to the public.

"I should be taken care of. I was doing just fine and they shut me down," said Zak, whose husband is also unable to work his job. "It has been very tough on us."

The NYS Department of Labor told Reporter Ed Reilly that it would need to investigate Zak's situation to see why she was being asked to submit duplicate information. In a follow-up email, the labor department said, "This is not the case with all non-essential small businesses. It is determined on a case by case basis."

The state labor department provided the following links with information for self-employed individuals who need to file an unemployment claim due to Covid-19.

https://www.labor.ny.gov/ui/pdfs/ui-covid-faq.pdf [labor.ny.gov]

https://www.labor.ny.gov/ui/pdfs/self-employed-ui-guide.pdf [labor.ny.gov]

https://www.labor.ny.gov/ui/cares-act.shtm [labor.ny.gov]