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NYS Labor Department helps older Lancaster couple finally get unemployment benefits

DOL takes quick action following a 7 Eyewitness News inquiry
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Posted at 5:50 PM, May 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-15 18:10:18-04

LANCASTER, N.Y. (WKBW-TV) — Carol Herb from Lancaster was tearful when she spoke with 7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly about the problems she had trying to get her New York State unemployment benefits. "It is just such a strain on us emotionally. Every day for eight weeks, I get up and check my account . . . and nothing," said Herb.

The 60-year-old has been off work from her full time job at Hubco Inc. in Alden since March 21st.

She applied for unemployment benefits and received a letter from the Labor Department on April 3 requesting more information. She quickly returned the requested information. After weeks of multiple, unsuccessful attempts to contact the department about her claim, Herb asked 7 Eyewitness News for help.

With no pay or health insurance, Carol and her 70-year-old husband, Raymond, where burning through their life savings, trying to survive on Raymond's partial Social Security payment, and using food pantries.

"There are food banks out there and I thank them for everything they do," added Carol Herb.

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Carol Herb and her husband Raymond

7 Eyewitness News contacted the Labor Department on Thursday May 14th. A spokesperson promised a quick investigation to see why the benefits were being held up. True to its word, the Labor Department was able to find the problem (Carol made a mistake on the paperwork she sent in), corrected it, and released the unemployment benefits for deposit to her bank account.

"Hopefully, we can get back on track. We used a lot of our life savings. Those took a long, long time to get that. It was getting depleted away and I was worried," explained Carol Herb.

UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFIT HOLD UPS

The NYS Department of Labor said a big problem with delayed benefits is that people are not doing the required weekly certifications to show they qualify for the money. It is something that is required by federal law. The Labor Department is reminding everyone there is a new streamlined process to certify through its website:

Quote From New York State Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon "No New Yorker should miss receiving their benefits because of red tape – so we announced efforts to help nearly half a million of our neighbors get their backdated benefits faster and easier. We will continue to think outside of the box and find creative solutions to the most common roadblocks to benefits New Yorkers face, and we will not rest until everyone has been served."

  • Last week, the Department of Labor identified 470,084 New Yorkers with complete, processed and payable claims who had previously missed nearly 700,000 previous weekly certifications, preventing them from receiving their payments in prior weeks. If these individuals had claimed their previous weeks' benefits, they would have received an additional $480 million.
  • In response, we launched a streamlined process [protect2.fireeye.com] for submitting previous weeks' certifications - also known as backdated certifications - allowing these New Yorkers to get paid easier and faster. They no longer have to call to back certify. Previously backdated certifications could only be done over the phone with a live DOL representative -- but this new system allows them to be done online much faster.
  • The DOL is using DocuSign’s secure digital signature technology to help New Yorkers get their backdated payments. If New Yorkers receive an email, they should fill out the form, and submit it online so that we can get them the benefits they are eligible for as quickly as possible.
  • On background, every claim is unique. However, once the individual completes the back certifications, typically the money will be released within a few days.
  • When the back payments are released, all of the back payments should be released on the same day. They will probably not show up as one large payment, but in multiple payments issued throughout that day.