NY state’s unemployment system ‘collapsed’ following claims surge: Cuomo

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during a press conference on April 20, 2020.

Michael Brochstein | Barcroft Media | Getty Images

New York’s unemployment website “collapsed” following a surge in claims after the state shuttered nonessential businesses to curb the coronavirus pandemic, putting a record number of New Yorkers out of work, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday.

The state now has 1,000 people working online and through its phone system to process the high volume of unemployment claims, Cuomo said during a press conference in Buffalo.

“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “One thousand people just to take the incoming unemployment calls. That’s how high the volume is and they still can’t keep up with the volume.”

The state has paid about $2.2 billion in unemployment insurance benefits to 1.1 million New Yorkers since the Covid-19 outbreak began, according to state data. There’s still a backlog of 4,305 phone applications, but that’s down from 275,000 before April 8, the state said.

Cuomo sympathized with New Yorkers currently out of work, saying, “there’s nothing worse than being unemployed and nervous about a paycheck and you call for unemployment benefits and you can’t get through on the phone.”

“I get it. I get it. And we have 1,000 people working on it. We have Google working on it. And we have all these experts working on it,” he said. “They are trying to bring up a system that did a much, much lower capacity.”

As of last week, at least 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment insurance in four weeks, nearly wiping out all the job gains since the Great Recession.

The number of Americans filing for unemployment has shattered records as businesses across the country have shut down amid a policy of social distancing aimed at keeping Covid-19′s growth in check.

The virus, which emerged in Wuhan, China, more than three months ago, has sickened over 787,900 people in the United States and killed at least 42,364 as of Tuesday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Other states have said their unemployment websites have crashed as residents rush to file.

Cuomo also said he will focus on coronavirus testing during his meeting Tuesday afternoon with President Donald Trump at the White House. 

Correction: An earlier version misstated where Cuomo spoke. It was in Buffalo.

–CNBC’s Jeff Cox contributed to this report.

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