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NYS says thousands are missing a critical step in the unemployment process, preventing payments

Posted at 2:40 PM, May 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-05 00:26:06-04

ALBANY, N.Y. (WKBW) — The New York State Department of Labor says thousands of unemployed New Yorkers are missing a critical step in the filing process and that is preventing them from getting their weekly benefits.

On Monday the DOL announced a new program designed to inform people, who have successfully applied for benefits, that they must submit a weekly certification to receive payments.

The New York State Department of Labor said in seven weeks, the department has given $4.6 billion in unemployment benefits through 1.6 million claims.

“We’re throwing the kitchen sink at this,” Commissioner Roberta Reardon said. The message from commissioner Roberta Reardon: certify.

“Because that’s a critical part of this process. If you don’t certify to us that you did not work last week or you only worked one day last week, we don’t know what to pay you,” Commissioner Reardon said. On Monday through a conference call, she said about 90,000 New Yorkers did not have their claims certified. That is why some claims were not paid out despite being completed and processed.

“You will get your benefits. You will get all of your benefits. The Feds are supporting us and the money is there. So please there are many things to be concerned about in this world, that’s not one of them,” Commissioner Reardon said.

Certification must happen weekly during the “claim window,” which is Sunday through the following Saturday. This can be done online or over the phone.

7 Eyewitness News reporter Nikki DeMentri asked on Monday’s conference call: “We just heard from a viewer a couple of moments ago that said they have certified weekly for benefits and not gotten paid at all. She’s asking what she should do during this time?”

Reardon answer, “Some of these claims take much longer than others and that’s just a sad, simple truth and the certification helps us. Don’t stop certifying and we will get to you.”

That viewer is Anne-Marie Corkran from Lancaster.

“It’s frustrating, it really is,” Commissioner Reardon said.

Corkran applied for unemployment back in March. She said she’s been certifying weekly as her status continues to say “pending” unsure why it hasn’t changed. She did not hear back from the department until she reached out to elected officials.

“And I’m sure that the commissioner is overwhelmed. She’s probably never saw anything like this. She said there’s only usually thousands of people that call a week and you’re getting thousands, and thousands per day, but she has to understand that she’s getting a pay check and we’re not,” Commissioner Reardon said.

A department representative told Corkran she’d know more about her status this week, but Monday’s announcement left her with more questions than answers.

“Everything that they were starting to say in the beginning, I had done everything. And then they come up with this so its like oh my god what are you going to say next,” Commissioner Reardon said. She notes every case is different. Other factors might be involved.

She acknowledged a slower than usual response time to these claims, but assures everyone who is eligible will get their benefits.

Under Federal law, weekly certification is required for those utilizing traditional unemployment insurance and the new COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. This is done to assure those receiving benefits fit the proper criteria, including whether they were truly unemployed for the past week.

According to DOL records, tens of thousands of otherwise eligible people, who should be receiving money, have missed this step. This could be due to a lag between when claims are processed, allowing them to begin certifying, and when they receive a “Monetary Determination Letter” in the mail, which tells them to begin certifying.

"Losing your job can be a disorienting experience — especially when it happens during a global pandemic — so we want to make it as simple as possible for New Yorkers to receive the money they are due,” NYS Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said. "That’s why we’re launching this campaign to make sure everyone who is applying for unemployment benefits knows how and when to submit their certification and claim the benefits they deserve.

Those who have fit this criteria will begin getting emails this week with information on how to certify and access their benefits. 90,000 emails have already been sent out. Below are some of the tips provided by the Department of Labor -

When to certify:

  • You can begin certifying when your application switches from “pending” to “payable” — you will know this because you will receive an email from the Department of Labor (if you provided an email on your application) and a letter.
  • For the purposes of Unemployment Insurance, a week runs from Monday to Sunday.
  • New Yorkers must submit their certification for a given week on the last day of that week (Sunday) through the following Saturday. This is called your “claim window.”
  • Any certification made on a Sunday is for the week ending that day.

How to certify:

  • New Yorkers are encouraged to certify online, which is the easiest and fastest way to certify, at www.labor.ny.gov/signin [labor.ny.gov]
  • Enter your NY.gov [ny.gov] username and password.
  • Click the “Unemployment Services” button on the My Online Services page.
  • Then click “Claim Weekly Benefits” and follow the instructions.
  • If you cannot certify online, you can certify via an automated phone system, by calling 1-888-581-5812 (for traditional unemployment insurance) or 1-833-324-0366 (for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance)