The New York Department of Labor has paid approximately $7.4 billion in unemployment claims in the first seven weeks of the Covid-19 crisis to 1.7 million residents out of work, Melissa DeRosa, secretary to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, said on Wednesday.
DeRosa said that roughly 1.8 million residents who are struggling with unemployment due to the coronavirus pandemic have filed claims. That is roughly six times the number of claims filed during the 2008 financial crisis when 300,000 New York jobs were lost, she said at a press briefing.
"When people say, 'You've experienced these past crises, why weren't you ready for this one?' We were ready for this one, we've handled six times that in the first seven weeks of this crisis, we've processed 1.8 million claims," DeRosa said.
DeRosa's comments come after some New Yorkers said they've struggled to apply and receive unemployment in the state, citing months-long waiting periods since they first applied.
New York, the epicenter of the coronavirus crisis in the U.S., is facing revenue shortfalls in the tens of billions of dollars, Cuomo has said.
Last week, New York said it needs more than $60 billion in federal aid — more than one-eighth of the $500 billion for all states and territories requested by the National Governor's Association. Cuomo is vice chair of the NGA.
He has pressured members of Congress, including representatives from his own state, such as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, to include more federal funding for states in any new coronavirus relief package.
Cuomo said in late April that the state's unemployment website "collapsed" because of a surge in claims following his order to shutter the state's nonessential businesses to contain the Covid-19 outbreak. The state hired 1,000 people to handle the increased traffic, although they've still struggled to keep up with the volume, he said.
April's jobs report showed that a record 20.5 million jobs were lost last month, sending the unemployment rate to 14.7%. The pandemic wiped out all the job gains that were added over the last 11 years since the Great Recession in only five weeks.
"You want to get everybody processed but you don't want to give funds to people who don't meet the federal criteria, which is extensive," Cuomo said. "You want to get it done in a day, but you want to get it done right."