New York Unemployment Insurance (Updated 2020)


When you are in need of Unemployment Insurance (UI) it is very important you apply immediately whether you are unsure if you qualify or not. It takes about 2-3 weeks to receive any benefits after the initial claim, and you won’t be paid during this time. It’s real easy to do, the NYS Department of Labor has a How-to on their website.

You will need:

  • your social security #
  • valid drivers license
  • mailing address and a contact phone #
  • federal employer identification number (from your W-2)
  • contact information for all your employers in the last 18 months
  • alien registration card (non-us citizens)

The most important next steps:

  1. Verify your identity – Letter received in the mail. Must be received by NYS within 10 days of NYS mailing you the request form. Can be done via online upload or through mail.
  2. Accept or Dispute Monetary Benefit Determination – Letter received in the mail. Must be received by NYS within 30 days of initial claim. 
  3. Appointment – Letter received in the mail with a set date and time you’ll meet over the phone with someone from NYS UI about your claim.
  4. Claim Weekly Benefits – You’ll do this online each week to certify you’re still unemployed
  5. Any severance pay that you receive within 30 days of your employment termination will be used against you, and you will have to use it instead of UI. Any money given by the state during that time will have to be returned.

Verify Your Identity

You will receive a couple of letters in the mail after your registration. It’s very important to open and read these mailings. One letter says within 10 days you will need to submit a copy of the front & back of your drivers license, passport, and social security card. You can do this via their online portal or mail them. 

Dispute Monetary Benefit Determinations

You’ll also receive your Monetary Benefit Determinations which tells you how much you’ll get each week. You can dispute the amount by completing the Request for Reconsideration PDF within 30 days of your initial claim. It says you can upload this form online, but there doesn’t appear to be a way. I recommend mailing this form via USPS Priority Mail which comes with tracking and doesn’t require a signature. It’s the cheapest mailing option with tracking, but it’s around $8.

How-to Receive Benefit Funds

It’s recommended to do the Direct Deposit method so you receive your payments Once approved, you will have to attend an orientation which is 1-2hrs. and in a group setting. You’re basically all done with the filing process. What’s next is to claim online at the benefits weekly claim page or over the phone 1-888-581-5812  each week for your benefits (W,Th, & Fri’s have less wait times), as well as filling out your job search form proving that you are job searching in Buffalo or anywhere else. It is required you apply for at least 2 jobs/week while claiming NYS unemployment insurance.

Also, whenever you are at the One-Stop centers, Department of Labor job center, or the Buffalo Employment & Training Center make sure to sign-in because it counts towards your job search. You can even claim your weekly benefits while outside the state looking for work by calling 1-888-864-9920 or by using the website.

The max payment that can be received is $504/week (2020), and it is determined by how much you made at certain points of the year. If you do not agree with your weekly benefits amount, you can file a petition to have it re-examined.  Furthermore, regular unemployment lasts for 26 weeks. The 2008 had many extended benefits that can make your unemployment benefits last a lot longer. The extended benefits breakdown chart gives great detail on your eligibility based on when your initially claimed.


You’ll have to meet over the phone with a person from NYS UI about your claim.

Weekly Claim

The weekly claim is for weeks starting Monday to Sunday. You’ll be asked the following questions, and you must select either “0” or “No” for each one in order to still be eligible for benefits. Selecting anything else could make you ineligible, but it’s not a guarantee.

  1. During the week did you refuse any job offer or referral?
  2. How many days did you work, including self-employment, during the week ending 10/18/2020?

2a. Excluding earnings from self-employment, did you earn more than $504?

  1. How many days were you NOT ready, willing, and able to work?
  2. How many days were you owed vacation pay or did you receive vacation pay?
  3. How many days were you owed holiday pay or did you receive holiday pay?
  4. Have you returned to work?

Work Search Record

You must actively look for work while claiming Unemployment Insurance benefits. You must keep a Work Search Record for each week you claim benefits and be prepared to give a copy of that Record to the New York State Department of Labor when requested. They will check the information on the form with the contacts listed. If you knowingly give us false statements about your work search activities, it is considered fraud and you may be denied Unemployment Insurance benefits.

You must do at least three work search activities each week, unless you have a Work Search Plan approved by the Department of Labor.* The three activities must be done on different days of the week. They must include at least one activity from Work Search Activities 1-5 (below). Two more activities must be completed and may be selected from the nine activities listed. This is the minimum criteria. You are encouraged to do more.

1. Visiting a local New York State Career Center and:

    • Meeting with Career Center advisors;
    • Getting information from Career Center staff about jobs that may be available in a particular industry or region (obtaining job market information);
    • Working with Career Center staff to assess your skills and match them to possible occupations and jobs (skills assessments for occupation matching);
    • Participating in instructional workshops; and
    • Getting job referrals and job matches from the Career Center and following up wit

2. Visiting a job site and completing a job application in person with employers who may be reasonably expected to have openings.

3. Submitting a job application and/or resume in response to a public notice or want ad or to employers who may reasonably be expected to have

4. Attending job search seminars, scheduled career networking meetings, job fairs, or employment-related workshops that offer instruction to improve job-hunting

5. Interviewing with possible


6. Applying for employment with former employer(s).

7. Registering with and checking in with private employment agencies, placement services, unions, and placement offices of schools, colleges or universities, and/or professional organizations.

8. Using the telephone, business directories, internet, or online job-matching systems to search for jobs, get leads, request referrals, or make appointments for job

9. Applying and/or registering for and taking Civil Service Examination(s) for government job

*If you have a Work Search Plan approved by the Department of Labor, you must do what was agreed upon in the plan, and record those activities on the Work Search Record. They will check your Work Search Record to be sure you are doing what is called for in your Work Search Plan.

Keep copies of your Work Search Records for one year. Do not send your Work Search Record to the Department of Labor unless they ask you to. You can get more forms at your local New York State Career Center, online at or in your claimant handbook. You may also keep your work search record online at


Read the After You’ve Applied for Unemployment page for other next steps. If you need some more information, check out the DOL’s Frequently Asked Question page or the  Unemployment Insurance website.


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