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Information from Chief of Staff of an Upstate Senator

DoL staffing:
As I think most of us know, there have been some inconsistent results coming out the DoL. Apparently, the DoL has brought in staff from all over the state departments to assist, many of whom have no UI experience. So some claims that shouldn't get approved are being approved, and some that should be approved are not.

Complicated UI cases:
I'm helping one of the senator's constituents who has a complicated state UI claim that was denied in late March 2020. She timely requested a hearing and filed a PUA claim in early April. She still has not received a hearing date and her PUA claim is pending and has not been processed. The CoS said that she still may qualify for PUA even if the denial of the UI claim is valid, but the DOL won't process it until the issues with the UI claim are resolved at a hearing. A total catch-22 since she can't get a hearing.

Requests for Hearings:
The CoS said to advise every claimant who gets any mail from the DoL to open it immediately. If it's a denial of benefits, they should submit a Request for Hearing w/in the required 30 days from the date of the denial and send it to the DOL via certified mail/return receipt requested. They need to have proof that the DoL received it.

Scheduling of Hearing Dates:
The CoS does not know for sure when the DoL will schedule hearings, but he expects it to be in 2 weeks-1 month. Once the DoL gets ready to set hearings, actual DoL staff likely will go through the cases more in-depth to weed out the ones that can be resolved without hearing so ALJ time is not tied up unnecessarily.

Claimants who have not heard back from DoL:
The CoS advised that any person who has not heard back from the DoL re his/her claim should contact their local senators/assembly people. The legislators do have a portal to the DoL - once the legislator lists the constituent-claimant in the portal, the claimant should get a call back from the DoL within about a week.

Tell Claimants to answer their phones:
Some claimants are not picking up their phones if they do not recognize the number for fear that it is a spam call, bill collector, etc. Claimants must pick up all calls - the DoL will not leave a message and may not call back.

If Claimants need $$ and UI claim is tied up:
The CoS said to advise people to file their 2019 taxes immediately if they are expected to get refunds. Apparently, the money is being paid out quickly. He also suggested that many people with children may also qualify for WIC and SNAP benefits.

Facebook groups:
As we all know, there is a lot of info/mis-info being shared in the Facebook groups. The pro bono volunteers are advised to block their numbers/info b/c it may be shared on Facebook, esp. if you help someone get a good result.
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