Don’t Call the Labor Dept! They’ll Call You!

After hundreds of thousands of unemployed New Yorkers overwhelmed the NYS Department of Labor’s Unemployment phone lines the past two weeks, the agency now says you no longer have to call.

As of Thursday, the Dept. of Labor says a representative will now call you within 72 hours of filing your claim. This is good news for people who have called hundreds or thousands of times trying to get through to claim representatives but to only get busy signals or hung up on.

The website for the NYS Dept. of Labor will also be shutdown from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday so a new streamlined portal system will be installed. The agency has partnered with Google Cloud, Deloitte and Verizon to improve the reliability of its online and phone Unemployment Insurance application systems. The move is part of a tech surge in coordination with NYS Dept. of Labor and the NYS Office of Information Technology Services.

New Yorkers are urged to use the new online system, which can handle most applications from start to finish, dramatically reducing the number of New Yorkers who must speak to a claims specialist on the phone.

In addition, the Department of Labor will roll out a new “call back” system, allowing their staff to proactively call New Yorkers who need to submit additional information to support their existing unemployment assistance application. This means New Yorkers who have already filed partial claims under the old system and had been told to call the hotline to finish their application should not — instead, the DOL call center will call these New Yorkers directly.

“I recognize that this is an extremely challenging time for all New Yorkers,” said NYS Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon. “I have been unemployed. I understand the urgency. We want you to be aware of the steps that we are taking to respond to each of you, as quickly as we can. We know that your livelihood depends on it and we assure you that you will get your benefits.”

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the New York State Department of Labor’s unemployment insurance filing system has faced an unprecedented increase in volume — with peak weeks seeing a 16,000% increase in phone calls and a 1,600% increase in web traffic, compared to a typical week.

The Department of Labor Tech Surge is providing critical upgrades to New York State’s unemployment insurance filing system during this crisis. These efforts are expected to increase capacity and reliability. Specific actions include:

  • Google Cloud has worked with the State Office of Information Technology Services to create a more user-friendly, streamlined, and reliable unemployment insurance application for the Department of Labor. Specific upgrades include:
    • Leveraging Google Cloud’s infrastructure to increase reliability and allow the application to scale, so it can handle a high volume of users;
    • Allowing users to save an incomplete application and pick up where they left off;
    • Providing an “every device experience,” so New Yorkers can file from smartphones, tablets, and laptops; and
    • Streamlining the number of questions so the application is shorter and easier to understand.
  • Deloitte is opening an additional unemployment insurance call center staffed by hundreds of experienced customer service professionals, which will dramatically increase the number of calls that can be handled; and
  • Verizon is expanding the number of phone “ports” for the Department of Labor’s call center from 1,750 to over 10,000 by the end of this week — increasing the center’s call capacity.

The Dept. of Labor Unemployment Claim Center has now increased staffing to 1,000 — compared to roughly 400 who typically staff the call center — with plans to bring an additional 1,200 staff on board, including those at the new Deloitte call center.