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Coronavirus Update: 1 In 10 Americans Workers Unemployed; New York And New Jersey Scramble To Improve Process To Get Benefits

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - There's more dismal news for U.S. workers sidelined by the coronavirus pandemic.

New unemployment numbers show 16.8 million Americans are now out of a job.

Manhattan-based trainer Harold Kaufman-Gibbons is one of those 16.8 million Americans who applied for unemployment in the last three weeks.

"All we really bought in the last three weeks was food. We're just, like, feeding ourselves, and that's basically it," he told CBS2's Jessica Moore. "So spending is absolutely as low as possible."

Kaufman-Gibbons says applying for unemployment benefits has been frustrating.


"This is your job now. If you're not getting through, the website's crashing, the phone's just ringing and ringing and ringing, your full-time job is then applying for benefits," he said.

An additional 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment last week alone. The total number of unemployed now representing 10% of the American workforce.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says 810,000 New Yorkers have applied for unemployment since March 9th.

The state now has 1,000 people working to process the onslaught of unemployment claims.

"The good news is, whenever you sign up your benefits are going to be retroactive," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The governor's office says it has identified the issues with the state system and is working to fix it.

New York State's Department of Labor website had to be taken down for re-tinkering because the crushing demand had put a severe strain on the system.

To add to the confusion, the state originally said the website would be down from 5-7 p.m. Thursday, but later clarified to say it would not reopen until 7:30 a.m. Friday, reflecting normal business hours.

By then, hopefully, the kinks will be ironed out.

"It's streamlined, there are fewer questions. And once you get to the end of that if you successfully fill it out it's going to say you're finished with the application process. If there's any information that's left blank. It's going to say don't call us, we will call you within 72 hours," said Melissa DeRosa.

"It's one of the unanticipated consequences of situation like this," Cuomo said.

WEB EXTRA: See Gov. Cuomo's Apr. 9, 2020 Presentation (.pdf)

Cuomo said the state now has 1,000 people to process unemployment claims. Some 810,000 claims have been filed since March 9, and 600,000 claims have been processed so far. More than 200,000 claims remain in "partial" status, in which an applicant may have left a field blank.

Cuomo said the coronavirus pandemic was more devastating to the New York economy and New York budget, which is a function of the New York economy, than 9/11 by far."

New York was looking at a revenue shortfall of $10-15 billion. The state is suspending raises to state workers for 90 days rather than laying people off.

The concern all around the country is not knowing how long you might be out of work.

"How am I gonna pay this bill? How am I gonna pay that bill? When are we gonna get back to work? Are we talking two weeks, are we talking 30 days, 45 days?" bus driver Chuck Dolan said.

PHOTO GALLERY: A Look Inside NYC's Viral 'Warzone'

Meanwhile, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy had a few tips for the record number of unemployment benefit applicants there.

"No one will be denied a penny of unemployment benefits," Murphy said. "Try accessing the online system either late at night or early in the morning when volumes are lowest, and please be patient. We understand your frustrations, believe me, but would ask you to please be patient."

Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia reacted to the unprecedented unemployment numbers, saying "Today's report continues to reflect the purposeful sacrifice being made by America's workers and their families to slow the spread of the coronavirus."

Scalia also said the Labor Department is working closely with states to facilitate traditional and expanded unemployment benefits, including an extra $600 weekly benefit for up to 4 months.

Despite the uncertainty, jobs experts like David Lewis, of OperationsInc, say the unemployed need to get ready for job hunting.

"Now is the time to go ahead and get your job search prepared, get your resume together, work with tools like LinkedIn, understand what a job search looks like in 2020," he told CBS2's Dick Brennan.

Lewis also says the job market for graduating students might be bleak and says they should take the summer to polish up their skill set and kick off a job search in the fall.

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