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Labor department simplifies applicaton for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance

The New York state Department of Labor now has an easier process in place for people to apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. The labor department has also beefed up its call center with thousands of representatives.

The Department of Labor says it has streamlined the application for New Yorkers to apply for COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. Under federal guidelines, up until Monday, people had to first apply for traditional Unemployment Insurance and be rejected before applying for PUA.

In a written statement, the DOL says the federal policy was cumbersome and slowed the state from distributing benefits.

The PUA program is part of the CARES Act and provides unemployment benefits for people who don’t qualify for traditional unemployment insurance including the self-employed, independent contractors, people who work for an app-based company or gig workers, and others including people quarantined or unable to work due to COVID-19.

The Labor Department says the new application allows people to simply fill out one form to get the correct benefits and get them faster without requiring calls to the department. But people who do need to phone should find it easier to get help.

The DOL says it has deployed more than 3,000 representatives “solely dedicated” to answering questions about unemployment benefits, seven days a week. Before the pandemic the labor department’s call center had 400 employees.