You are reading

Sunnyside Woman’s Attempt to File for Unemployment Goes Nowhere, Bills Start to Mount

Pamela Wittmeier (Photo provided by Wittmeier)

April 8, 2020 By Michael Dorgan,

A Sunnyside woman who lost her job last month following the outbreak of COVID-19 is in need of cash and her repeated attempts to file for unemployment have resulted in nothing more than jammed phone lines and automated messages.

Pamela Wittmeier, 56, said that she has been trying to file an unemployment claim since March 25 but has got nowhere. She said that when she calls she gets an automated message telling her to speak with a claims specialist.

When she tries to reach a claims specialists– another automated message tells her that all the specialists are busy and the system hangs up on her.

“It’s very stressful. There are moments where I’m extremely angry because I paid into these benefits. I’m going to be 57 in May and I’ve always paid my taxes,” she said.

Wittmeier said that she has spent, on average, about four to six hours per day trying to get through to a claims specialist. She has been on the phone everyday but one– and that was to preserve her sanity.

Wittmeier has been out of pocket since the furniture and prop rental store she worked for – Prop n Spoon, located at 32-00 Skillman Ave. – was shuttered on March 20. She said she has been forced to dip into her savings to pay rent, utilities and health insurance.

She has joined thousands of other New Yorkers who were left without a job since Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered the shutdown.

More than 369,000 unemployment insurance claims were filed with the state on the week ending March 28 – an increase of more 2,600 percent over the same time last year, according to the latest figures. Just over 80,000 claims were filed the week before.

But those numbers are likely to be a lot higher as they do not take into account people like Wittmeier who are unable to make their claims. She said that her friends, fellow employees, and neighbors have been unable to file claims for similar reasons.

She has emailed the governor and the mayor every day but has gotten no response.

Wittmeier is also frustrated that public officials have given no clear plans or timelines as to when the situation might improve.

“I go through moments of panic where I just have to keep myself busy,” Wittmeier said.

“And I know that I’m more unfortunate than others and that I have a little bit of savings that I can carry myself for a couple of months but it’s so frightening,” she said.

Governor Andrew Cuomo publicly apologized for the delays last week and has acknowledged that delays are compounding the stress of the unemployed.

He said the state is working to speed up the process by hiring more staff, and adding more computer servers.

However, Wittmeier has seen little progress and is fearful that she may not have the funds to pay for her mounting bills.

“If this goes through to the fall or to the end of the year then basically I’m screwed because my savings will be at the extreme minimum,” she said.

NYS Dept. of Labor


email the author: [email protected]


Click for Comments 

Blame DeBlasio. Shut down businesses and unemployment won’t go up? Completely inept who spends his morning reported in the newspapers with pictures doing his 3 hour workout during lockdown! Hypocrite. Useless.


@Lilana…i tried that and got through to someone but the person hung up on me when i asked if they spoke english. I wish i learned spanish in high school instead of french. I thought i was going to move to paris, france and become a model back then. Now i pretend to work the runway pretending to be a model as a waitress at a diner. I got laid off because i am too heavy to ride a scooter for deliveries. It was the only position available.


Wake up folks!!! This is all being done to prevent people and only a certain number of people from filing daily. You should of saved some money instead of wasting it at local expensive restaurants and bars. Meanwhile they were one of the first to file for benefits. Same crap is taking place online with sites not wanting to flip the bill for free delivery when you spend a certain amount. They limit supplies, tell you its in store purchase only, or get you to pay for prime memberships to have certain needed items delivered.

JM Maspeth

Sophia Perdikea, maybe you should try using a Muslim or black or Hispanic telephone number, given that the state phone system apparently somehow knows that you are white and won’t let you connect.


There is no way an automated phone system can handle this many calls, without long wait times. I suggest you create a NYS ID on the Department of Labor’s website and then you file your claim online. My son did this, and he received last week’s payment in his bank account already.
Good luck!


Our officials and the media were telling us not to panic and not to hoard items from the beginning. My sister laughed at me for buying going out and stocking up on food, toilet paper, wipes and masks. Well now she is begging me for some.


I finally got through when I pressed for instructions and customer service in Spanish. You can try that and hope you get a bilingual worker. Good luck and Happy Easter.

Tania L.

My husband, an Uber driver, has been trying to file an unemployment claim for the past 2 weeks online and on the phone. It’s impossible! He has not worked for 25 days, I’m a retiree and bills are mounting with no end – nor unemployment benefits – in sight.


I finally got through yesterday. Just keep calling. If the call hangs up, call again. Best times I got through this week were between 9:30 and 10:00 am. It also took 2 days to complete the process. The phone agent was extremely helpful.


Go file on the website however im wsiting to get it says deposited and no funds cant call either


Try your district state representative or state senator’s office to get help. Let them know you are a constituent.

Gigi Lo

I have the same problem. I have been furlough with Macy’s.When I tries to reach a claims specialists– another automated message tells me that all the specialists are busy and the system hangs up on me. I been trying everyday since March 18… No luck at all. I wake up early trying to call. I am going insane.


This shut down has to end; people are losing their jobs, their savings, their futures and their hope and way of life. The cure can be worse than the disease.


let her go to Jimmy Van Bramer’s office this is his job to help his constitutents unless he is in Puerto Rico again –

Sophia Perdikea

This is also happening to me!!! The reason being, we are white! If we were hispanic, mexican, muslim, and/ or black, we would have received unemployment in minutes!!!!!


I feel the same way when I call Domino’s. Lines are always busy and once you get through you get billed for a pizza that never arrived.


Leave a Comment
Reply to this Comment

All comments are subject to moderation before being posted.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Recent News

Popular places where you can watch the Super Bowl in Queens

Feb. 2, 2023 By Tammy Scileppi

Hey, football fans! Game time is fast approaching, and across the city and here in Queens, you can feel the excitement brewing as the two teams prepare to take the field on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 12. So, kick back and watch the big game, and don’t miss Rihanna’s exciting performance during halftime. 

Borough president hears from community members on budget needs throughout Queens

During a two-day public hearing on the mayor’s 2024 preliminary budget, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. listened to testimonies from 14 community board representatives, community stakeholders and members of the public on where the money should be spent in Queens. 

The public hearings were held both in-person and via Zoom on Monday, Jan. 30, and Tuesday, Jan. 31, at Queens Borough Hall. The testimonials will be used to develop the Queens Borough Board’s FY24 preliminary budget priorities in the coming weeks. 

‘He didn’t deserve to die’: Borough President Richards leads emotional candlelight vigil for Tyre Nichols

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards held a candlelight vigil for Tyre Nichols outside Queens Borough Hall Monday, Jan. 30 after Nichols’ death at the hands of police officers in Memphis, Tenn., made national headlines for the brutality in which the officers beat him.

Almost immediately after news broke about Nichols’ death, the Memphis police officers who beat him to death were fired and charged with murder. The police department released the body cam footage of the fatal beating on Jan. 27, but many people, including some at the vigil, have refused to watch it due to its extremely graphic nature.

Op-Ed: This Year’s State Budget Must Prioritize Climate, Jobs, and Justice for New York

Op-Ed, Jan. 30, By Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas

In a time of rampant economic inequality and environmental injustice, it is easy to feel defeated.  Here in Queens and across New York State, however, communities are organizing for a better future. New Yorkers from different backgrounds and with different lived experiences are proving that we can build community, organize, and create a future that reflects our shared values.

LaGuardia Community College receives federal funding to expand vocational training for the unemployed

Jan. 27, 2023 By Bill Parry

LaGuardia Community College recently received more than $400,000 in federal funding to enhance and expand vocational training for underemployed New Yorkers in a city that is still working to recover from COVID-19 pandemic-induced job loss. The support was secured by U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez and former Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney.