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IPFS News Link • Employment & Jobs

Millions are applying for unemployment, but the system is broken by design. Here are their stories


Following eight years working in luxury retail and more than 20 years in finance before that, Francis Rennie is considering retiring in September.

"I can't do this anymore," says Rennie, 65, who has been furloughed since March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

It's not a rash decision, he says. He has waited nearly four months for his first unemployment payment from New York State's Department of Labor. That's after spending the better part of a month struggling to access the state's website and unemployment claim assistance line for help with his application. Finally, he received a notification from the state: It was a letter that arrived in late May stating he had been approved. Since then he has received others reminding him to recertify for his benefits, which he has done each passing week.

"But there's no payment. Nothing—it's very frustrating," he says. Because the state's unemployment offices were closed, "there was no one you [could] go to and plead your case. I've never seen anything like this."

Francis is one of more than 35 million American workers who have filed for unemployment insurance payments since March due to the pandemic. What's worse, he's among millions who are still waiting to receive those benefits. States are dealing with an unprecedented volume of applicants, resulting in long delays, websites crashing, and jammed phone lines. But many researchers and advocates say the pandemic has exposed a truth about the nation's unemployment insurance system that can't be ignored anymore: the system is broken.