The national unemployment rate stands at its highest since the Great Depression, but for many New Yorkers unemployment benefits have been delayed for weeks.
The economic hardship combined with the public health crisis has made the coronavirus pandemic an especially nightmarish experience as food pantries see long lines of cars and a reopening of the economy will, at best, be gradual.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday in Poughkeepsie acknowledged the frustration.
"There is no doubt that this is an horrendous period to live through and the greatest problem for most people -- aside from the social issues and the isolation and the emotion that goes with that -- the economics are devastating," he said.
Some people who have lost their jobs have waited upwards of six weeks to receive their benefits. The state's unemployment hotline was quickly overwhelmed by the initial flood of phone calls.
State officials have since added thousands of more people and bolstered its server capabilities to respond to claims.
Last year alone the system sent out $2.1 billion. In the last seven weeks, $6.8 billion was sent out in benefits. But the money has struggled to get out the door during the pandemic.
State offiicals have pointed to some applicants not complying with a federal certification process for pandemic assistance which has held up their claim.
"The volume of the calls has been so great it has literally crushed the phone system," said Melissa DeRosa, the top aide to the governor. "In the last financial crisis, we had 300,000 people who were unemployed in 2008 and that crushed the system. We're talking about 1.6 million in the last seven weeks. We haven't experienced anything like this, period."
She added, "We're literally building the plane while trying to fly it."