The Labor Department added additional staff on Monday to its Telephone Claims Centers (TCC) in upstate New York to respond to a higher volume of calls. In addition, TCC hours have been extended from its original schedule and new technology was implemented to limit the need to speak with a call center agent.
"In government, especially in times of financial crisis, we are often asked to do more with less," said State Labor Commissioner M. Patricia Smith. "Our staff is doing work of the highest caliber on behalf of workers, and I can't thank them enough for all they are doing during these uncertain times. We have listened to workers; we have heard their frustrations, and we are doing everything in our power to help them during their time of need."
These measures come at a time when the current job market looks bleak for those that are unemployed. The national unemployment rate stands at 6.7 percent with 533,000 jobs lost in November, the highest rate increase in 15 years according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
With New York's unemployment rate at 5.7 percent and expected to rise, unemployment claims have skyrocketed by 59 percent from 58,000 last year to 92,000 this year.
The state has paid close to $500 million in Extended Unemployment Compensation (EUC) to over 154,000 individuals since it was enacted in July. President Bush signed a second extension on November 21, which provides New Yorkers with seven additional weeks of benefits just in time for the holiday season.
The Labor Department has committed $10 million in discretionary federal funds to the state, with $4 million slated for New York City to make the necessary improvements.
"We are fully aware of the fears that many New Yorkers are experiencing in this economic crisis, especially as the holidays come nearer," said Smith. "These unprecedented times call for creative solutions, and we are using every means at our disposal to make certain that workers needs are being completely addressed."