City council asks NYS to improve unemployment claims process

POUGHKEEPSIE – At Monday’s council meeting, lawmaker Chris Petsas introduced a non-binding resolution calling on NYS to expand and improve the capacity of unemployment call centers.

Citing the recent influx of workers that have been laid off as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Petsas said that “The system needs to run 24 hours a day” in order to handle the increased call volume which has irritated many people that are trying to file for benefits.

Councilman Chris Petsas.

Petsas, who represents the city’s First Ward, said that many of his constituents work at “Mahoney’s, Shadows, and Schatzi’s” and they are now seeking unemployment assistance.  The councilmember shared that he has been laid off from his position as a bartender at the Exempt Firemens Association for three weeks and has called “almost 600 times” and has yet to be able to file for unemployment benefits.  The bartending job is not the only source of income for Petsas. He and his legislative colleagues, with the exception of Council Chair Sarah Salem, make $15,000 per year as members of the governing body.  Salem makes more than $20,000 in her position of leadership.

Councilmember Evan Menist of the Second Ward noted that the NYS budget, adopted last week addressed the widespread unemployment issues throughout New York.  According to Menist, the new budget added 700 new employees to staff the unemployment call centers.  Menist also noted that under the new policy, unemployment insurance benefits will be back-dated to the date that the employee was originally laid off.

The official request was passed and will be forwarded to Governor Cuomo for his consideration.

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