May 19, 2008

Assembly Passes Measure Extending Unemployment Benefits For New Yorkers Whose Benefits Are About To End
Bill Provides Additional 13 Weeks of Unemployment Compensation

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Assembly Labor Committee Chair Susan John today announced that struggling unemployed New Yorkers whose benefits are about to run out will be able to tap into a $645 million federal grant for unemployment compensation under legislation overwhelmingly passed the Assembly today. The legislation (A.8273), sponsored by Assemblywoman Grace Meng, will allow unemployment compensation recipients to receive a 13-week extension on their benefits.

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.

"President Obama has put forth a plan that reaches out directly to the people who need help the most. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) further extends Emergency Unemployment benefits and encourages the expansion of coverage to new classifications of claimants. This legislation makes the necessary changes to New York State law to fully access these federal benefits. Having an administration in Washington that fully comprehends the scope of our current economic crisis and is responding with comprehensive solutions is a much needed, much-appreciated change in state-federal relations," said Silver (D-Manhattan).

"I want to thank Speaker Silver, Governor Paterson and the New York Congressional delegation for their leadership in securing additional funds for New York's overburdened unemployment system. This legislation helps thousands of New Yorkers who must continue to rely on unemployment benefits during this difficult time. While the Assembly works to strengthen our economy and support new economic opportunities, we cannot forget our neighbors who are the economic casualties of historic fiscal policies that have failed. While more can and will be done, today's legislation stretches the net to protect these families," said John (D-Rochester).

"During these tough economic times for the working families of New York, I am proud to sponsor this bill, which will help the workers who need financial assistance the most. This agreement will assist unemployed workers who are needy, willing and able to work to get back on their feet," said Meng (D-Queens).

The bill, which is the result of an agreement between both houses of the Legislature and Gov. David 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: 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.