New online application for unemployment claims in New York to go into effect Thursday night

The New York State Department of Labor’s online unemployment application will be shut down from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday so it can be rebooted with a new, streamlined application, state officials announced Thursday.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state has been working with Google to develop a better online system to limit the number of phone calls flooding in from people filing record numbers of unemployment claims during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Melissa DeRosa, secretary to Gov. Cuomo, has been working on the upgrade and said the new application will have fewer questions. She said when applicants complete the current application in full online, they are typically done. However, if someone leaves a part blank, they are then required to call and speak with a representative, which has crashed the system as people continually dial in over and over trying to get through.

Under the new system, if a part of the application is left blank, the person will no longer be directed to call. Instead, they will be told to wait for a call back. Ms. DeRosa said that call back will be within 72 hours.

Mr. Cuomo said residents will receive the full retroactive benefits they are owed regardless of when they connect with the Department of Labor.

Ms. DeRosa said last week there were 350,000 claims in New York, bringing the total to 810,000. She said of that number, 600,000 claims have been successfully processed.

Ms. DeRosa admitted it has been an “infuriating” process for so many people who have been forced out of their jobs as nonessential businesses closed to curb the spread of the virus.

There are now 1,000 people working on handling claims, Mr. Cuomo said, a number that would equal the number of applications received on a daily basis under normal circumstances.

He said the phone call part of the process was important to verify that people applying are qualified for the benefits.

• Mr. Cuomo said fatalities in New York yesterday reached another one-day high with 799. There have been more than 4,000 deaths in the state since April 3. He said additional funeral directors will be brought in to help assist.

Total deaths have now reached 7,067.

• The data on number of cases and hospitalizations continues to suggest a flattening of the curve, Mr. Cuomo said. The daily increases in hospitalizations and ICU admissions are at their lowest point since earlier in March. He maintained that there is still a long way to go and the pandemic could hit in several waves. He pointed to a recent Los Angeles Times article about new cases emerging in Asia.

“If we stop acting the way we’re acting, those numbers will continue to go up,” he said.

He said the state would not be equipped to handle worst-case scenarios or even moderate scenarios.

“It’s essential we keep those curves flattened,” he said.

• Mr. Cuomo urged anyone needing help to seek assistance through the state’s mental health hotline: 1-844-863-9314.

• Mr. Cuomo said while fatalities continue to mount, no one in New York has died due to lack of adequate health care.

“We didn’t lose anyone that we could have saved,” he said.