Laid off workers describe days-long struggle getting through to NY Labor Department

Posted at 6:42 PM, Mar 25, 2020

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Disconnected calls, stalled websites, hours-long waits on hold: laid off workers across New York State are having a brutal time reaching the New York State Department of Labor.

On an average day, the Department receives 10,000 calls a day. On March 20th, the day Governor Andrew Cuomo announced 100% work-from-home for all non-essential workers to combat COVID-19, the Department received 475,000 calls.

From Monday-Saturday last week, the Department received 1.7 million calls and 2.2 million web hits.

But like many laid-off workers, Raymond Kreuzer has been calling hundreds of times a day, over multiple days.

"I can be understanding to a point but when I've made 400 calls a day, it gets over the top," said Kreuzer.

Kreuzer was laid off from his bartending job at Applebee's in West Seneca on March 17th. He completed an online unemployment application, but for a week was unable to complete the claim process because he could not reach a representative at the Department of Labor's unemployment hotline. An automated message would tell him the call line was overloaded, or it would hang up on him after a few prompts.

"It's like trying get through to a radio station," Kreuzer said.

Finally, on March 25th, after being put on hold for a half hour, Kreuzer finally got through to a representative.

The Labor Department says it is beefing up its call centers and is guaranteeing everyone will receive their full benefit back to the date of unemployment, regardless of how long it takes to file the claim.

The Department is asking New Yorkers to adhere to the new alphabetic filing system, and only call on the days that correspond to the first letter of your last name:

A-F: Monday
G-N: Tuesday
O-Z: Wednesday
Missed your day: Thursday and Friday