Assembly to Pass Legislation to Help Workers and Small Businesses Impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic

Speaker Carl Heastie today announced that the Assembly will pass legislation to help hard working New Yorkers and small businesses across the state weather the storm of the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation will allow workers to collect unemployment insurance (UI) while working part time, prevent businesses from being charged higher rates for UI and put a stay on evictions and foreclosures for small businesses.

“Unemployment insurance has been a critical lifeline for millions of our friends and neighbors who lost their job through no fault of their own during this pandemic,” Speaker Heastie said. “These bills will ensure that these hardworking New Yorkers get the UI they need and deserve. It will also ensure that small businesses that are already in dire straits due to the pandemic are not financially strained due to increased UI premiums or threatened with eviction or foreclosure.”

Legislation to pass today would prevent small businesses that were forced to let workers go as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic from being penalized with higher UI rates when they reopen. The experience rating is used to assess unemployment charges on employers that reflect their past unemployment claims. Small businesses often have lower UI experience ratings since they usually have a small number of past claims and a low number of employees. This legislation will exclude these businesses from additional UI charges if they were forced to close or reduce their staff after March 12, 2020 (A.2001-A, Zebrowski).

“Small businesses are the bedrock of our local economies, and so many across New York State have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Assemblymember Kenneth Zebrowski said. “This bill will ensure that our small businesses are not further burdened with the financial strain of additional unemployment contributions when they reopen.”

The Assembly Majority will also pass legislation to allow workers who find part-time work to maintain eligibility for UI. New York State’s current UI program imposes a 25 percent reduction to a claimant’s full benefit for any work performed in a single day. This fails to provide an adequate level of income security for workers who have experienced reductions in usual hours, and creates a disincentive for people to return to part-time work. In addition to helping New Yorkers, the bill will also improve local economies – for every dollar of UI allocated, between $1.61 and $2.00 is generated in the economy (A.2355-A, Stirpe).

“New Yorkers should not have to choose between desperately needed unemployment insurance and being able to take part time work,” Assemblymember Al Stirpe said. “The current system does not work for hard working New Yorkers and it doesn’t work for the economy. By allowing people to collect their full UI and pick up part-time work, we put money back into the pockets of families and local economies and we allow workers to take a step back into the workforce without jeopardizing their benefits.”

The COVID-19 Emergency Protect Our Small Business Act of 2021would put a moratorium on evictions for small businesses of fewer than 50 employees until May 1, 2021, and create a standardized hardship declaration form to be used by tenants and landlords in order to take advantage of the protections. It would also put a stay on foreclosures for small businesses of 50 or fewer employees that have 10 or fewer properties that they are renting. Additionally, the legislation would provide tax lien protections and negative credit reporting protections to small business property owners (A.3207, Bronson).

“An eviction and foreclosure moratorium is critical if we want our small businesses to survive,” Assemblymember Harry B. Bronson said. “Small businesses across New York have struggled financially – many had to close their doors for months or find ways to operate in a new world. Putting a stay on evictions and foreclosures will give them a chance to get back on their feet without fear of losing their business.”

The Assembly Majority will also pass a supplemental appropriations bill to give New York State the ability to pay projected UI claims through the end of the current fiscal year, providing an additional $11 billion (A.3011). Over the course of the pandemic, more than four million New Yorkers have received UI payments totaling over $60 billion, an amount that would otherwise be paid out over 29 years.