Money for rent, groceries gets tight for many as unemployment challenges drag on

Hundreds of frustrated New Yorkers have Turned To Tara about their weeks of failed attempts to secure their unemployment benefits

News 12 Staff

May 5, 2020, 6:54 PM

Updated 1,477 days ago


Hundreds of frustrated New Yorkers have Turned To Tara about their weeks of failed attempts to secure their unemployment benefits
Many people tell News 12 they can no longer afford to pay rent and buy groceries for their families, as their jobless status enters a second month.
Filing for unemployment has become a full-time job for single White Plains mother Kimberly Caso.
The laid-off exercise instructor has not had a paycheck since March 9, and she says she is running out of money to feed her 13-year-old son.
She says her son has lost 8 pounds and she has lost 5 pounds.
"I shared a can of tuna with my cats last night because that's how bad it is," she says. "This was a last resort reaching out to you."
Hundreds of others reached out in desperation about the same problem about getting in touch with unemployment in the past several weeks.
Their stories and data obtained by the Turn To Tara team offer a grim snapshot of the unemployment crisis across the Empire State, where another 222,000 New Yorkers filed for unemployment benefits in one week.
It's a 1,000% increase from the year before, and brings the total number of jobless unemployment applications since the start of the crisis to more than 1.6 million.
Much of the pain is centered in the hotel, restaurant and entertainment industries.
The data reveals that outside of New York City, the Hudson Valley and Long Island are the hardest hit regions in the state.
The commissioner of the New York State Labor Department assured News 12 over the phone that they are working 24/7 to respond to an unprecedented logjam, unlike anything they have seen since the Great Depression.
"The load has been crushing. I apologize to people that have taken longer than expected, but we are working night and day, we are working seven days a week. I know how difficult these times are," says Commissioner Roberta Reardon.
Reardon says they have partnered with Google to create a new website, brought on 3,000 workers to answer the phones and, most recently, created a 72-hour callback system to finish applications along with a video series to answer common questions.
"We are dedicated to making sure that every single New Yorker is going to be made whole," she says.
While the process may seem daunting, News 12 discovered some common issues that could be holding up claims.
1. The biggest issue is people not knowing their Federal Employer's Identification Number. Every business has one and applications can't be processed without it, so get the information before you file.
2. Resist the urge to file more than once, "just in case." Some people have filed as many as 20 times, slowing down the system.
3. Don't use a nickname. Use the name on your driver's license, and make sure you fill out items like your Social Security number accurately.
4. Answer your phone for the callbacks. The caller ID may come up as private because many staffers are working remotely.
5. Opt for direct deposit. You'll get paid much faster than if you select the Key Bank debit card option.
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