New York needs to fix its unemployment-claims system — yesterday

Nearly half a million New Yorkers filed for unemployment benefits in March — or tried to, anyway. The state Labor Department’s systems are so antiquated that it can take weeks to get OK’d for benefits.

Part of it, of course, is the unprecedented demand: With so much of the economy ground to an abrupt halt, bureaucracies across the country are overwhelmed by jobless filings. But the Empire State’s 1970s and ’80s technology doesn’t help.

The Web site crashes regularly. (And God forbid you have a question.) Once you finish an online application, state rules require you to verify key info by phone — but lines are nonstop busy. You can feel lucky to at least get through to a machine, until you get disconnected partway through.

Even if you reach a real, live person, you can find yourself put on hold for hours.

People with the patience to call hundreds of times are having to wait weeks to get cash they’re entitled to. Many worry they’ll run through whatever savings (if any) they have.

The Facebook group “Help us — NYS unemployment issues” has 6,000 members and growing. The social-media tag #WaivetheCall signals a demand for the verbal-conversation mandate to be set aside in this crisis.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo apologized for these nightmares last week and said the Labor Department is hiring hundreds of new staff to deal with the avalanche of filings and building resources to otherwise end the logjams.

As with so many aspects of the COVID-19 crisis, government was caught worse-than-unprepared for this challenge. No need for heads to roll — yet — but this mess has to end.

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