November 30, 2021

Career center still providing services as layoffs mount

Photo provided by Jessica Burhans

Desarae Edwards, the owner of Roots Hair Salon on Main Street in Binghamton, colors a woman’s hair. Edwards, like many other people, had to file for unemployment benefits because the coronavirus forced her to close her business temporarily.

If you’re filing an unemployment claim, be patient, remain calm and be kind once you’ve got someone from the state Labor Department on the phone, said Amy Buggs, the director of the Cayuga and Cortland Workforce Development Group.

“Most of our calls over the last couple of the weeks have been people applying for unemployment and having difficulty,” she said Wednesday.

More than 450,000 New Yorkers have applied for unemployment benefits in the past month, feeding a 16,000% increase in phone calls to the Labor Department as they join nearly 16.8 million Americans out of a job since the coronavirus pandemic struck.

In Cortland County, 675 people applied for benefits in the week ending week before.

But that compares to just 38 applications in the same week a year ago.

That drop — more than doubling Cortland’s February unemployment rate in just two weeks since February — mirrors a regional drop. Central New York saw 32,437 people apply for unemployment since the pandemic arrived — between March 8 and April 4. That’s up from 2,300 in the same period last year, or 1,310%, Labor Department data show.

The state Department of Labor announced it had streamlined the application process April 9 after hearing complaints across the state that people with pending applications couldn’t get through to speak to someone.

Now if your application is pending, someone from the Labor Department will call you, rather than you having to continue calling the state, Buggs said. Because of that change, she also said people should answer any calls from blocked or private numbers because it could be the Labor Department.

She said the easiest way to apply is online.

File for unemployment

Go to
Days to file
File by first letter of last name
Monday: Letters A-F
Tuesday: Letters G-N
Wednesday: Letters O-Z
Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday: File if you missed your normal day

Need help or looking for a job?
Call the Career Works Center at 607-756-7585, ext. 3231. Leave a message with your name and number and someone will get back to you in one to two business days.

— Source: Amy Buggs, director of Cayuga and Cortland Workforce Development Group and the state Department of Labor

Cortland business owner Desarae Edwards said she didn’t have a lot of difficulty when she applied for unemployment in early April after closing her hair salon, Roots on Main Street in Cortland on March 16.

“Given everything they’re going through, I don’t think it’s been that difficult,” she said, noting she’s known of only one person so far to have difficulty applying.

The day after she applied, she called the Labor Department and spent two hours on the phone before someone hung up on her. However, she didn’t mind that too much.

“I’m not busy, so it’s not like I wasted any time doing it,” she said.

She received a call a few days later and has been receiving her unemployment paycheck since then.

The only bump she ran into along the way was how the department wanted her to apply — having her say she was self-employed and couldn’t work rather than saying she owned a business and had to close.

“I’ve never filed for unemployment before, so it was a new ballgame for me,” she said.

She echoed Buggs’ call to be patient.

“For the sake of everyone’s mental stability I think it’s just good to be patient,” she said.

“We’re all humans and I think they’re going through an extraordinary influx of people trying to apply for it.”

The career center is also still helping those looking for a job — and there are lots of jobs still available, Buggs said.

“Right now, most of the essential businesses that are opened locally are looking for employees,” she said.

That includes grocery stores and delivery services. “If somebody is looking for a temporary job because they want to get out of the house, those are some places they could be filling out applications,” she said.

The Career Works center provides resume services as well as other job search related services over the phone.

“We’re able to give job referrals over the phone,” she said. “Our staff is working remotely but they are answering calls and helping customers through email and phone.”