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This free app can help you quickly file for unemployment

A free service developed by the makers of the DoNotPay app helps get unemployment claims processed quicker to get money to people faster.
/ Source: TODAY

State call centers and websites have been overwhelmed as nearly 20 million people across the country try to file for unemployment benefits while the coronavirus pandemic ravages the job market.

An app called DoNotPay promises to erase the headache of trying to get your claim processed — and does it all for free.

The app features a chatbot that asks you questions to gather the information necessary to apply for state unemployment insurance. It then mails in a paper application or submits the information by fax or through the state's unemployment website during off-peak hours.

"What we realized is the government systems are stuck in the 1960s," DoNotPay CEO Joshua Browder told NBC technology correspondent Jacob Ward on TODAY Wednesday. "So we've built a new system. We've gone back to the 1960s."

The app charges a $3 monthly subscription fee for services like disputing parking tickets, navigating small claims court and skipping the line for customer service, but the newly-developed unemployment service is being offered for free.

Browder and six other employees developed the app to automate the unemployment process for all 50 states, which all have different filing systems. Some states like New York and New Jersey still require a phone call to the state unemployment office in order to process the claim, but the DoNotPay app has a service where a bot can make the phone call, remain on hold and then forward the call to the user when a representative picks up the phone.

Mailing an application can surprisingly get faster results than applying online, according to Browder.

"It's almost like paper voting,'' he said. "That idea can be applied to other areas of bureaucracy where it's actually more secure and efficient in some strange way."

Marama Nengel, a DoNotPay subscriber who was laid off after 15 years as a concierge at the Four Seasons hotel in Las Vegas, used the service after Nevada's unemployment site kept crashing. She received her first $1,200 unemployment payment in less than a week.

"It was really good because my bank account was getting pretty empty,'' she told Ward.

Those looking to use the app will need to have the following information handy:

  • Social Security number
  • Home address and mailing address (if different)
  • Telephone number
  • Email address
  • Your bank name, address, account number and routing number for direct deposit
  • Employer’s name, address and phone number
  • First and last day worked with employer
  • Reason for leaving
  • Pension or severance package information (if applicable)

For those concerned about sharing that type of personal data with DoNotPay, Browder said it will not be retained by the company.

"We don't actually store any of the data ourselves,'' he said. "We inject it in the form, and then it disappears."

TODAY also has additional tips from experts when it comes to filing for unemployment, including checking with your state government for any changes and checking on any changes in eligibility rules.