Assemblymember Harry Bronson: Assembly to Help Workers and Small Businesses Impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic

Bronson bill to put a hold on business evections

Assemblymember Harry Bronson, Chair of the Committee on Economic Development, Job Creation, Commerce and Industry, is proud to announce that legislation he sponsored to protect small businesses from eviction during this harrowing time, has passed the Assembly and Senate.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and equally important the backbone of our communities,” said Bronson. “These small businesses, especially those in economically disadvantaged communities, or those owned by people of color, have been even more disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. This legislation hits the pause button on evictions and foreclosures giving our small businesses an opportunity to get back on their feet. The legislation seeks to give these small businesses a fighting chance to emerge from this pandemic by helping both the business and their small business commercial landlord. In helping our small businesses, we help their employees during these difficult times.” 

The bill A.3207, establishes the COVID-19 Emergency Protect Our Small Businesses Act, which will: 

  • Prevent Small Business Evictions: This bill establishes a commercial eviction moratorium for small businesses of 50 or fewer employees through May 1, 2021 that demonstrate financial hardship. The bill creates a standardized hardship declaration form to be used by tenants and landlords in order to take advantage of the protections offered by the legislation; 
  • Protect Against Small Business Foreclosures: The bill creates a moratorium on mortgage and tax foreclosures of small businesses of 50 or fewer employees that have 10 or fewer properties that they are renting; and 
  • Prohibit Negative Credit Reporting and Discrimination in Extending Credit: The bill provides tax lien protections and negative credit reporting protections to small business property owners. 

As part of the COVID-19 small business package, the Assembly has taken action that will provide for enhancement of unemployment insurance benefits for both employers and workers. 

One of the pieces of legislation, A2001A (Zebrowski; co-sponsored by Bronson), provides relief to our small businesses who have been forced to lay off employees because of COVID-19 state mandated closures. Currently, when a business lays-off a worker, the worker can file for unemployment benefits because the employer pays into the unemployment insurance fund that covers part of the cost of the claim. The amount the employer is responsible to pay is known as the experience rating. Many small businesses have lower unemployment insurance experience ratings, as they have a small number of past claims, and low number of employees. This bill will prevent the 2020 unemployment experience from increasing costs to the small business. 

As circumstances change with the pandemic, many businesses can safely re-open and bring their workers back. However, this will lead to a sharp increase in unemployment insurance rates for businesses, as a result of their worker’s unemployment claims from when the business was forced to shut down. This increase will have a significant negative impact on our small businesses. This legislation will prohibit the inclusion of claims for unemployment insurance arising from the closure of an employer due to COVID-19.

“Many small businesses plan on safely re-opening as soon as they are able,” said Assemblymember Bronson. “These employers should not be penalized with high unemployment insurance premiums as they commence the delicate balance of resuming business and re-hiring their workers. We need to help these small businesses. This legislation is an important step in our state’s economic recovery.” 

Bill A2355A (Stirpe – co-sponsored Bronson), will ensure that partially unemployed workers have access to unemployment insurance benefits by allowing for the calculation of weekly unemployment insurance benefits for workers who are partially employed. 

“While these businesses begin the process of re-opening and recovery, it’s important that we allow workers to provide for their families, even if the business is unable to resume full hours during the start-up period,” continues Bronson. “Today, the Assembly has passed legislation that I supported to allow workers work part-time and still be eligible for partial unemployment benefits.” 

This legislation will: 

  • Replace the current system for determining eligibility for partial unemployment insurance benefits with a system that is based on the claimant's weekly earnings rather than the number of days the claimant worked during the week;
  • Establish a system of calculating partial unemployment insurance benefits that disregards a portion of part-time earnings before reducing benefits by one dollar for each dollar of earnings up to the full weekly benefit amount; and
  • Provide that any individual who earns significant part-time earnings in a single day during the week, up to the maximum allowable amount, will receive a partial benefit equal to three-quarters or their full weekly benefit amount.

“By doing this small change to the unemployment system, at a time when parts of our economy can only support part-time jobs, we are allowing businesses to gear-up, provide meaningful benefits to workers, and give our economy a real chance to succeed as we return to full employment,” said Bronson.

Finally, I co-sponsored and helped pass A3011, legislation that will add a supplemental appropriations bill that will allow the state to pay projected unemployment insurance claims through the end of the current fiscal year, by providing an additional $11 billion. Over the course of the pandemic, more than four million New Yorkers have received unemployment in claim payments totaling over $60 billion, an amount that would otherwise be paid out over 29 years.

Today’s action by the Assembly is another step in providing a sound foundation for businesses, workers, and our state’s economy to start the long journey toward recovery in a post-pandemic world.