Some New Yorkers still waiting on unemployment

Published: May. 14, 2020 at 5:03 PM EDT
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Millions of New Yorkers are out of work from the pandemic, and some of them are still waiting for their unemployment checks. Our Kelly O'Brien spoke with one of them who has been waiting for two months.

"The experience has been a nightmare," Aaron Patterson said.

Patterson isn't working his day job selling modular homes due to COVID-19. He doesn't know when he'll be back at work but assumes he will fall into phase two of New York's reopening plans.

March 25 was his first attempt to file for unemployment.

"It took me a solid month of calling every day, every six minutes to try and get through to unemployment," Patterson said.

Nearly two months later, he has yet to receive a dime from the state.

"Every day you are watching your bank account get lower and lower and just praying and hoping that you get the benefits that you are entitled to as a New York state resident by being laid off because of COVID," Patterson said.

"Some of these stories out there are just heartbreaking," said Assemblyman Billy Jones, D-Plattsburgh.

Jones says his office receives hundreds of calls a week from constituents regarding their unanswered unemployment claims.

His suggestion to the commissioner of the Department of Labor is to make a task force dedicated to answering the claims from March and work their way down, with a goal of no one going without pay for more than than 30 days.

"I know I couldn't go 30 days without a paycheck and I know some of my constituents can't," Jones said. "We need to get this situated. It needs to be resolved."

"Normally, a state unemployment website would handle several thousand calls. We are now handling in the millions," said Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-New York.

The governor says the Department of Labor has 3,000 people working on unemployment claims.

The state says during its last financial crisis in 2008, there were 300,000 lost jobs filing for unemployment. Since March, the state has paid out six times that.

"We have now released $7.4 billion to roughly 1.7 million New Yorkers who are struggling with unemployment," said Melissa Derosa, secretary to the governor.

Back to Patterson, he says he's starting to lose hope that he'll see any money before he heads back to work, and the stress of not knowing when it will come is piling up.

"It's just this whole situation of the unknown that really causes the stress," Patterson said. "We don't know when we are going to get paid for unemployment, we don't know when we're going to be able to pay out bills and that causes an immense amount of stress."

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