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Cuomo to implement partial uninsurance pay

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has come up with a new way to offer a partial unemployment claim that Republicans in the state Legislature may agree with.

Legislation to be submitted with the Executive Budget will permanently enact a partial unemployment program to incentivize unemployed New Yorkers to assume a part-time job as they search for full-time work, with a revised calculation made possible by technological improvements currently under way.

Under current law, unemployed New Yorkers’ weekly benefits are reduced by 25% for each day an individual works, regardless of the hours worked. Anyone who worked four or more days — even if they only worked one hour per day — would have to forfeit their entire weekly benefit.

Cuomo will direct the state Labor Department to immediately implement emergency measures that base partial unemployment benefits on the number of hours actually worked over the course of a week. Under this new system, unemployed New Yorkers can work up to seven days per week and still receive some unemployment benefits as long as they work fewer than 30 hours and earn no more than $504 in gross pay.

“The COVID pandemic has created dual crises, putting Americans’ physical health and financial wellbeing at risk — and in New York we are addressing both sides of this public health emergency. I am immediately directing the Department of Labor to change outdated rules so as we build back from the pandemic, unemployed New Yorkers aren’t penalized for taking part time jobs,” Governor Cuomo said. “Encouraging part-time work will help New Yorkers get back to work quickly, give small businesses the flexibility needed to navigate these difficult times, and ensure our neighbors have money to put food on the table.”

Cuomo’s change flies in the face of legislation that has been opposed by Republicans in the state Legislature and favored by Democrats in the past two legislative sessions. Democrats had proposed similar partial unemployment programs in the past, but proposed dollar-for-dollar deductions once someone earned more than half their weekly unemployment benefit.

Republicans argued the dollar-for-dollar deduction provided a disincentive to work more than a certain number of hours a week.

“Many people who are on unemployment cannot afford to take a part-time job,” said Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh, R-Ballston, on the Assembly floor last year. “It’s a serious issue and I commend my colleague for looking at it. We disagree about how we should approach it. The way the bill is structured the employee who is working part-time keeps 100% of their income until they get up to half of what they earn, and then they keep nothing. It’s a 100% tax on earnings from 50% to 100%, dollar-for-dollar reduction. I know of very few employees who get up enthusiastically to go to work in the morning for a 100% tax on income. And that’s basically what it would be.”

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