Assemblyman Mark Walczyk (R,C,I-Watertown) said he welcomes Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s decision to audit the state Department of Labor (DOL) regarding widespread delays in handing out unemployment insurance and excessive cases of reported fraud after the agency administered over $81 billion in benefits in the last year. Walczyk was among a bipartisan group of lawmakers who had contacted the comptroller early in the pandemic asking for him to intervene to better protect taxpayers.
“For the last year, my office has spent countless hours with constituents – grown adults – many of whom have broken down into tears because of the stress, excessive frustration and fear they are feeling as a result of the broken system at the Department of Labor,” said Walczyk. “It is heartbreaking. We have done everything in our power to help them – they deserved a follow-up on their unemployment claim. People are also concerned when they get a fraudulent claim in their name.”
Since the start of the pandemic, Walczyk’s office has fielded hundreds of constituent unemployment cases. It was recently announced the state Comptroller’s Office will be auditing the DOL for a variety of reasons, including the amount of complaints it has received, large increases in payments, new programs and criteria, and changes to the department’s IT.
As was widely reported multiple times throughout the pandemic, the DOL website and various new hotlines created all crashed, preventing New Yorkers from getting assistance in obtaining their unemployment benefits – sometimes for extended periods of time as long as weeks or even months.
“The system is broken and that’s why I partnered with Sen. Griffo, Assemblywoman Buttenschon and former Sen. Seward to ask the comptroller to investigate everything that was wrong,” said Walczyk. “It’s shameful that after a year of dealing with this, the governor didn’t fix the problem. I am glad the comptroller is finally looking into it.”