Thursday, 28 May 2009 10:48
Struggling unemployed Long Islanders whose unemployment benefits are about to run out will be able to tap into a $645 million federal grant for unemployment compensation under legislation overwhelmingly passed by the assembly, Assemblyman Tom Alfano announced.
Alfano, who is ranking member of the powerful Assembly Labor Committee, voted to move the bill to the floor of the assembly that will allow unemployment compensation recipients to receive a 13-week extension on their benefits.
“This was a measure we had to move on quickly and I was happy to have helped in the Labor Committee. I want to thank Labor Chair Susan John and Speaker Silver for making this bill a reality,” Assemblyman Alfano said. The bill passed the State Senate and was signed by Governor Paterson.
Current New York state law triggers an extension of benefits when the insured unemployment rate, or the rate of unemployment among workers who qualify for unemployment insurance coverage, reaches five percent. Under the new proposal, an additional 13 weeks of extended benefits will begin when the state total unemployment rate or the rate of unemployment among all unemployed persons reaches 6.5 percent or greater. An additional seven weeks would begin once the state total unemployment rate climbs to eight percent or greater. New York’s total unemployment rate for April was 7.8 percent.
“Times are tough for many of our neighbors. Too many people have lost a job and are hurting during this economic downturn. This bill will give added relief to those who are struggling right here and now,” Assemblyman Alfano said. “I want to thank President Obama for helping New York State and channeling this needed aid to those who have lost a job and are about to run out of benefits.”
Assemblyman Alfano pointed to regional unemployment figures that continue to increase as a result of the economic downturn and foreclosure crisis. “By providing this added relief, we are helping countless families who are in trouble financially. We’re also continuing our efforts in the revitalization project on Hempstead Turnpike that will create jobs and expand the tax base. The focus for us in Nassau County should be jobs, jobs, jobs. If we create jobs, we expand the tax base, and give homeowners property tax relief. It’s as simple as that,” Alfano said.
The bill, which is the result of an agreement between both houses of the Legislature and Governor Paterson, will extend benefits by including workers who must leave work for compelling family reasons, including domestic abuse and the sickness or disability of a family member. Also included in the category expansion is a provision that will allow part-time workers to seek part-time work and still qualify for unemployment insurance benefits.
Additional provisions of the bill will allow New York to draw down federal funding for 100 percent of the extended benefits for claimants who were employed by private employers before losing their jobs; clarify that the benefits of claimants who were employed by Native American Tribes must be paid for by such tribe, as consistent with other governmental entities; and, allow for additional weeks of benefits without statutory action in the event that Congress provides funding for 100 percent of such benefit for claimants who worked for private employers.
Current law provides 26 weeks of benefits to employees who are ready, willing and able to work but who have lost their employment through no fault of their own. In June and November 2008 and February 2009 the federal government provided an additional 33 weeks of benefits, for which it paid 100 percent of the cost, for a total of 59 weeks of unemployment benefits for New York claimants. Passage of this bill can potentially provide New York’s unemployed a total of 79 weeks of benefits.