New York has paid out $7.4 billion in unemployment benefits since March when the coronavirus pandemic began to wreak havoc on the state's economy. 

The state Department of Labor on Wednesday announced 330,000 people who filed to receive benefits from the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program were approved.  

What You Need To Know

  • The state has more than tripled its 2019 payout in just the last 2 months
  • Republicans and Cuomo are at odds over the state's response to the onslaught of new claims
  • One lawmaker eyes new legislation to give benefits to people who quit jobs because of COVID-19

The state has struggled with the wave of unemployment claims as non-essential businesses close and workers lose their jobs or face furloughs.  

The total paid out in benefits in 2019 was $2.1 billion. 

“Every state is facing a historic surge in unemployment claims and New York is no different, but we have moved faster and more aggressively than others to get beneficiaries their money, and in just over two months have paid out over three-and-a-half years’ worth of benefits,” Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said. “We know New Yorkers are struggling, and we know they need support now, and we are working day and night to get money into more New Yorkers’ hands faster — including through these emergency measures — and we will continue to provide the support people need to help them weather this unprecedented crisis.”

New York has added thousands of more people to answer phone calls and increased server capacity to the handle the influx of unemployment claims. 

But Republican lawmakers have criticized the state's response and trouble in getting the money to beneficiaries -- which Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday called a "cheap shot." 

Appearing in Watertown, Cuomo predicted he could also be criticized for benefits going to people who didn't qualify for them. 

"You want to get everyone processed, but you don't want to give funds to people who don't meet the federal criteria, which is extensive," Cuomo said. "But you want to get it done in a day, but you have to get it done right."

Sen. Patty Richie in response called Cuomo's comments "offensive" to her and people trying to get benefits.  

"This type of commentary demonstrates just how out-of-touch this administration is when it comes to understanding the dire situations many are in right now," she said.

The latest unemployment benefit news comes as parts of New York could reopen as soon as the end of the week, including the North Country, Finger Lakes, Southern Tier, and Mohawk Valley regions. 

Sen. Brad Hoylman is sponsoring legislation that would expand unemployment benefits to include those who have quit over COVID safety issues. 

"The concern is they'll force workers to show up in environments that may lack the necessary safety precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19," Hoylman said. 

Non-essential businesses have shuttered since March to prevent the spread of the virus. Nationally the unemployment rate stands at 14.7 percent. 

"We promised them they were going to be taken care of," said Sen. Sue Serino, a Republican from the Hudson Valley. "We asked them to stay home. They're doing there part, government's not doing there's."​