Thousands of New Yorkers have still not received responses for their unemployment claims. A group of New York state lawmakers who blame Gov. Cuomo for the delay have introduced a website entitled www.fixDOLdisaster.com to hold the government accountable. The effort is spearheaded by state senator Patty Ritchie.
“I fully understand these are unprecedented times and that the New York State Department of Labor (DOL) is under immense pressure,” Ritchie said. “However, hundreds of the people contacting my office filed claims nearly two months ago and have yet to see a dime—or even get a call back—from DOL. With every day that passes it becomes more apparent that there are major issues with the system. This issue, and the struggle of these people, needs more attention.”
For good measure, she added that DOL Commissioner Roberta Reardon should resign.
Gov. Cuomo's office didn't exactly provide answers. Instead, his spokesperson dismissed Ritchie as a "cheap politician." Ritchie responded.
"Today I called for change at the New York State Department of Labor after receiving thousands of calls from constituents who have been waiting 6-8 weeks for their unemployment claims to be processed. Instead of providing real answers as to why this is happening, the Governor’s spokesperson resorted to calling me a ‘cheap politician.’ If the bureaucrats in Albany want to pat themselves on the back about how well this process is working, have them come and explain themselves to the single mom in Ogdensburg who has been waiting seven weeks to receive one dollar. Or the small business owner in Watertown who was forced to close and has $20 left in her bank account. People are suffering and if the Governor’s spokesperson thinks my standing up for them makes me a cheap politician, then so be it.”
She added an exclamation point on Twitter.
If the Gov. & staff want to truly understand what NY’ers are up against & fully realize the need for change @ @NYSLabor, I invite them to answer the phones for a day in my office. Maybe then they'll realize sticking up for these people is far from “cheap.” https://t.co/wKZemTHtBb— Patty Ritchie (@SenatorRitchie) May 13, 2020
Still, Gov. Cuomo stood by his staff's remark.
"Is it a cheap shot? Yes," Cuomo agreed at his Wednesday press conference. "It's a cheap shot. I understand it's easy to pander. But let's just be a little honest here..."
Normally a state's unemployment computer system handles thousands of claims. Right now, in the middle of the coronavirus outbreak, they are in the millions, Cuomo explained. He said they have 3,000 people working on the phones and the website trying to keep up with the volume.
"Our response rate is much much better than any other state...We have made tremendous progress in a very short period of time," he said.
But, he understands, "if you haven't gotten your check none of that matters."
He emphasized that they dramatically decreased the wait time.
"We were ready," Cuomo press secretary Melissa DeRosa said in defense, noting that they've processed nearly 1.8 million claims and have released $7.4 billion to New Yorkers struggling with unemployment.
"It's a cheap shot," Cuomo said, returning to Ritchie's comments. "No one could have expected this."
The governor predicted that it's a lose-lose situation because months from now it'll turn out that "someone got the benefits who didn't deserve the benefits," and he'll get heat for that too.
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