Unemployment filings spike with COVID-19

Many restaurant & bar workers laid off
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Posted at 5:38 PM, Mar 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-18 17:40:33-04

BUFFALO, NY (WBKW) — With a mandate that has shuttered many businesses, the New York State Labor Department says unemployment filings started pouring in.

Bars and restaurants are the some of the hardest hit businesses.

“I’m really scared because living as a server, every dollar, you put toward your bills and food and now i have no money coming,” declared Ashley Paladino.

Paladino was laid off as a server at Yolo's restaurant in east Amherst. But she quickly tried to file for unemployment and hit a major snag with the state Labor Department.

Ashley Paladino was laid off as a server at Yolo's restaurant in east Amherst.

“To answer 30 minutes of questions, get hopeful and then for it to just hang up on you and tell you to call back at another time is ridiculous. They should have something better than that,” remarked Paladino.

Paladino said it cut off as it asked if you were placed on unemployment because of COVID-19.

“It told me to call back at another time and hung up on me,” Paladino said.

The state Labor Department says it has implemented a new filing system for unemployment because it's experiencing an extremely high volume of calls.

NYS Labor Department in downtown Buffalo.

“We are experiencing an unprecedented increase in the volume of calls and web traffic for Unemployment Insurance claims. This massive surge created intermittent interruptions in service. Our team is continuing to fix the problem as we monitor the situation around the clock. By Noon today, we received more than 21,000 calls - compared to the 2K in total last Tuesday and, 110K website visits, compared to 42K last Tuesday,” stated Labor Department.

Applicants must call on days based on the letter of their last name.

"Providing Unemployment Insurance benefits is DOL's number one priority and everyone who is entitled to UI benefits will receive them in a timely manner. To that end we are implementing a new more efficient filing system based on the first letter of the applicants last name (alphabetical order)."

A - F : Monday
G – N : Tuesday
O – Z : Wednesday
Missed your day : Thursday and Friday Filing later in the week will not delay payments or affect the date of an individual's claim, since all claims are effective on the Monday of the week in which they are filed. We are also extending filing hours as follows: Monday through Thursday 8 am to 7:30 pm. Friday 8:00 am to 6:00 pm. Saturday 7:30 am to 8:00 pm.

But Paladino says it didn't work and on-line was just as bad.

“I have tried so many times. It's says ‘connection failed’. The serve just circles. It says problem loaded pages you can't even file a claim on line,” Paladino explained.

With restaurants now closed for dining in, Paladino is among thousands of servers in Western New York who suddenly find themselves with no income. In north Buffalo, Tom Hazlet was forced to layoff more than half his wait staff at Bob and John's and the Wellington Pub.

Tom Hazlet was forced to layoff more than half his wait staff at Bob and John's and the Wellington Pub.

“As soon as we can get them in there, we will - odd jobs or whatever, but right now we feel really bad for the servers,” Hazlet stated.

Hazlet kept just a small staff to cook and conduct take-out and deliveries.

“I want to keep the people who are employed right now, still working and try to pay the bills at the same time,” Hazlet said.

Hazlet said unfortunately he can’t afford to keep the serves on to train them for cooking and take out.

“We can’t even afford to do that as of right now because we think this is going to go till like May 1 at least,” Hazlet responded.

Hazlet said as a business owner, this is “very tough” and a big “burden”.

Everyone is concerned about being out of work for months. “What are you going to do for the long hall for your self?” Buckley questioned. “I’m going to pray,” responded Paladino.

The Department of Labor said it is adding extra staff and more hours to help deal with the influx of the high unemployment numbers that are coming in to its system.