As unemployment claims spike across the country, it’s no surprise that state websites have struggled to keep up, with systems crashing under the load. The problem is particularly bad in New York, where shuttered businesses and layoffs have resulted in a 16,000 percent increase in phone calls and a 1,600 percent increase in web traffic, according to the New York State Labor Department. In light of the unprecedented number of claims, the state is now partnering with Google, Deloitte, and Verizon to beef up its rickety unemployment application system.
The aim of the initiative, dubbed Tech Surge, is to not only increase the labor department’s technical capacity and reliability but also to simplify the online application process. Google’s role was mostly to provide a hardier, user-friendly service via its cloud services. While that includes reducing the number of questions applicants have to answer, it also means you’ll now be able to pick up an incomplete application right where you left off. New Yorkers will also be able to file from their phones, tablets, and laptops. You can find the new portal via the labor department’s website.
That said, if you already had an incomplete application in the works, you don’t have to call or re-apply via the new site. The labor department has said it will begin a new “call back” feature, in which state representatives will reach out to them to finish applications. Meanwhile, those who finish their applications via the new portal won’t have to call the state at all.
Deloitte and Verizon are also helping to increase the labor department’s phone capacity. Deloitte is opening an additional call center with hundreds of new staff, while Verizon will expand the department’s available phone ports from 1,750 to over 10,000 by the end of the week. The department is also extending its call center’s hours, including weekends.
On top of bolstering unemployment infrastructure, earlier this week New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also announced that there’ll bee $600 in additional weekly unemployment benefits for New Yorkers and that the period will be extended to a total of 39 weeks.