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NYS Department of Labor: $9.2 billion in unemployment benefits paid during COVID-19 pandemic, including nearly $290 million released through new system for back pay

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Mon, May 18th 2020 08:55 pm

Federal law requires unemployed New Yorkers to submit weekly certifications to receive benefits – nearly 180,000 individuals have used new, streamlined process for ‘easy’ back certification to release previous weeks’ money

The New York State Department of Labor on Monday announced $9.2 billion in unemployment benefits have been paid to New Yorkers since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. This figure includes nearly $290 million in back pay that was processed in the past two weeks and which was unlocked through a new, streamlined process that allows New Yorkers to easily submit federally mandated weekly certifications they had missed, unlocking previous weeks’ benefits.

In total, New York has now paid more than four years’ worth of benefits in two-and-a-half months.

“During this pandemic, Americans are facing historically high levels of unemployment, and no state is immune, but New York is moving quicker than other states to get money into unemployed workers’ hands. In just two-and-a-half months, we have paid four years’ worth of benefits – and we will make sure everyone receives the benefits they are eligible for,” NYS Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said. “This back-certification initiative is an example of the creative and decisive actions we are taking to get money into New Yorkers’ hands, and so far, it has helped nearly 180,000 New Yorkers receive their benefits.”

Under federal law, Americans receiving unemployment insurance benefits are required to submit a certification every week before their payments are released, confirming they are still eligible to receive benefits. Earlier this month, the Department of Labor identified nearly half a million New Yorkers who had not submitted certifications for previous weeks, missing out on almost $500 million in unemployment benefits they were entitled to.

In response, the Department of Labor launched a new system that allows these individuals to submit prior weeks’ certifications online and proactively emailed back certification forms to over 570,000 New Yorkers. Previously, back certifications could only be submitted over the phone to a DOL representative.

Nearly 180,000 New Yorkers have used this new online system to submit back certifications for approximately 428,000 prior weeks’ benefits – and as a result, these individuals were paid $289.6 million in benefits that they had effectively left on the table. The Department of Labor will continue to proactively reach out to New Yorkers who had missed weekly certifications to ensure they receive their benefits.

A press release said, “Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the New York State Department of Labor has taken decisive action to ensure New Yorkers can receive their benefits, moving faster than other states to get money into unemployed individuals’ hands.” This includes:

  • Waiving the unemployment benefit waiting week, so New Yorkers can receive their benefits faster;
  • Building and rolling out a new online application backed by Google Cloud technology in just a matter of weeks; and
  • Launching proactive communication efforts to ensure New Yorkers complete federally required certifications and know the status of their claims.

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