This article is adapted from our Jobs Update newsletter that focuses on the employment during the pandemic. You can sign up here to get it or fill out the form at the bottom of this post.
The city is coming back to life in various ways this spring. And while jobs are on the rise, last month the unemployment rate in New York City was 11.2%, more than twice the pre-pandemic rate.
Some New Yorkers who lost work at the start of the pandemic have passed the one-year mark on their unemployment claim, which is known as the Benefit Year Ending, or BYE date. We’ve written about this before (and, yes, we see the spot-on acronym the state Department of Labor uses to define the end of benefits).
When that date passes, some people will need to file a new claim and others won’t, depending on a few factors that we broke down here.
We’ve heard from a lot of people whose unemployment payments have for one reason or another stopped coming through after reaching that day.
So we looked into what could be going on. The short answer is: It’s complicated. (Maybe we should rename our Jobs Newsletter to “It’s complicated,” because that’s almost always the case.)
We checked in with officials at the state Department of Labor and a couple worker advocates to get some tips to help you get your claim and your payments straightened out. We also found answers to other questions about some other weird stuff happening with unemployment benefits.
Here’s what you need to know.
What could be holding up your payments?
When you’ve reached a year on your unemployment claim, some people can just keep recertifying every week on their existing claim while others need to file a new claim. According to the DOL, you should have gotten an email or text message with instructions about what to do, and a DocuSign form to fill out. That’s the first tip.
1. Fill out the DocuSign form.
Whether you need to file a new claim or not, everyone needs to fill out the DocuSign form to continue receiving benefits. This is not the same thing as filing a new claim.
2. Triple check to make sure you don’t need to file a new claim.
If you are receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or PUA, you can just keep recertifying and don’t need to file a new claim. But if you are collecting traditional unemployment insurance (UI), you may need to.
You need to file a new claim if you have made more than 10 times your weekly benefit in total over the last year from an employer.
For example, if your weekly benefit amount is $150, then 10 times that is $1,500. So, if you’ve gone back to work even temporarily and have made at least $1,500 in total in the span of the year when your claim has been open, then you need to file a new claim when you reach your BYE date. Once again, this means $1,500 in total, not just in one week.
This DOL fact sheet may be helpful.
Important note: New claims can take two to three weeks to process, and your payments may get backed up.
But as soon as your new claim is approved, you’ll get back pay to your BYE date.
According to DOL officials, claims are being processed within this three-week time frame unless the cases are “extremely complex.” Claims may take longer to process if they’re being contested or appealed, or if the DOL needs additional documents from the person (the DOL will text, email or call if it does).
3. Do you need to verify your identity?
In order to prevent fraud, the DOL is asking a lot of people to verify their identity to keep getting their unemployment benefits.
If the DOL asks you to verify your identity through a process called ID.me, do it as soon as possible. Here’s a guide, and here’s a video that walks you through the process. (Before you click anything, though, double and triple check that it’s coming from a legitimate source.)
It can take up to two weeks for the DOL to process the identity verification, which may put your payments on hold for that time.
If these tips haven’t applied to you so far or you’ve done these things and are still having issues...
4. Reach out to someone who can make sure your claim gets attention.
Legal service providers and state elected officials — including state senators and Assembly members — can advocate on your behalf to help get your claim resolved.
Nicole Salk, a senior attorney at Legal Services NYC, said: “We have a means of getting through. It doesn’t mean we can solve every problem, but we can figure out what the problem is and maybe solve it quicker. We have been able to get through some of these logjams.”
You can find your state representatives’ contact information here.
Or you can call Legal Services NYC at 917-661-4500, The Legal Aid Society’s access to benefits hotline at 888-663-6880 or the Center for Urban Community Services at 855-932-2827.
Other weird things about unemployment benefits this month...
Some of you received a letter from the Department of Labor about overpayments. Here’s what to do about that.
Last year, the DOL erroneously sent out duplicate payments to an unknown number of New Yorkers, through no fault of those receiving the benefits. But now, since it was federal money lost in the mixup, the law requires that the DOL try to get it back.
If you are one of these people, the DOL would have notified you about the overpayment through email, text and a letter earlier this month. If you don’t take action, the DOL can reduce your weekly benefits by a certain percentage until the money is recovered.
You have two other options:
- If you don’t think the overpayment letter is correct, meaning you did not receive an extra payment from the DOL, then you can request a hearing to dispute the claim.
- If it’s correct, meaning you received the payment but it wasn’t your fault, then you can apply for waiver for financial hardship. If you request a waiver within 30 days of being notified about the overpayment and are approved, you don’t have to pay it, according to DOL officials.
Salk from Legal Services NYC said: “There’s no risk in doing it as long as you’re truthful.”
You should have received instructions to request a hearing or a waiver in your email. If you didn’t, you can message the DOL through your ny.gov account.
According to the department’s website, you must select “Waiver” for the subject line and include your Social Security number and current email address in the email message. You can find more info on requesting a hearing or a waiver here.
Taxes! You still have to pay New York State taxes on your unemployment benefits — even those the feds waived. Here’s what that means.
New York is one of 11 states continuing to tax unemployment benefits, even for 2020. This means that even though the first $10,200 of unemployment payments are exempt from federal taxes, you will still have to pay state taxes on that money.
And remember, tax day is May 17 this year.
There’s not really a way around it. Some readers have told THE CITY their state tax bills have been as much as $800 or $1,100 and have thrown a wrench in their pandemic budgeting.
What else we’re reading
- THE CITY published the latest edition of our Meet Your Mayor quiz, which shows you how the candidates’ positions stack up to yours. The latest topic: labor.
- THE CITY also reported on app-based food deliverers’ collaboration with a major union, and about new bills in City Council that would give delivery workers access to restaurant restrooms.
- Gothamist reported on the extra $600 that some New Yorkers are being asked to pay back to the Department of Labor, as well as what the mayoral candidates’ plan to do to support recovering small businesses.
- Curbed spoke with six city employees about how they feel returning to work.
- The New York Times wrote about a jobs program for LGBTQ young adults.
If you have specific questions about working or unemployment in the city during the pandemic or something else you think we should cover, let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more jobs, work and unemployment resources, here’s what New Yorkers who attended THE CITY’s Open Newsroom shared. If you see something you believe we should include, tell us.