What went wrong with New York’s unemployment system? Officials say they learned lessons, are ready for the future

Nearly $40 billion was paid out to 3.3 million New Yorkers through the Coronavirus Pandemic in unemployment insurance.

It’s a massive figure that hasn’t been seen in decades.

“We have paid over 18 years worth of benefits in just over five months,” State Labor Department Commissioner Roberta Reardon said. “That is staggering.”

The question on most people’s minds, though: What stopped benefits from getting to people when the pandemic was beginning?

Even still some users have had issues with the system. Backlogs in the unemployment system early on in the pandemic caused thousands to wait months for their unemployment benefits.

It was due to the volume of calls coming to the DOL. At the end of the day, the system wasn’t set up to handle that kind of volume.

“During the peak week in late March, our call center received over 8.2 million phone calls,” Reardon emphasized. “That is a 16,000 percent increase.”

“The pandemic has taught us a lot of lessons,” Reardon said. “No one ever envisioned shutting down New York state. No one.”

Reardon says DOL is ready for whatever comes next. Even if that means a flood of new unemployment claims down the road.