Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver announced significant advances were made on behalf of workers in the SFY 2013-14 Budget approved by the Assembly today that will raise the minimum wage to $9.00 an hour, increase unemployment benefits for the unemployed, restructure the Unemployment Insurance Fund and safeguard injured workers.
"At last, the Assembly's unrelenting fight to raise the minimum wage has been won and the victors of this battle are our low income families," said Silver. "This budget agreement brings about a meaningful increase that will compensate employees more appropriately for their work and restore a path to the middle class for New Yorkers."
"I am very proud of our house's unwavering efforts to raise the minimum wage, but I am disappointed that we did not accomplish everything we set out to do during our negotiations with the other house," said Labor Committee Chair Carl E. Heastie. "I commend Speaker Silver for his leadership in championing the interests of working families and securing the best outcome possible for the state's minimum wage earners."
"While it is long overdue, a higher minimum wage in this state is now reality. Thanks to the persistence of my Assembly colleagues, thousands of hardworking minimum wage earners will be receiving a much deserved raise," said Assemblyman Keith L.T. Wright, sponsor of the bill with Silver. "This legislation demonstrates our house's longstanding commitment to ensuring that New Yorkers receive a fair day's pay for a fair day's work."
The current minimum wage of $7.25 will be raised three times according to the provisions of this budget. The hourly minimum wage will reach $8.00 on December 31, 2013, $8.75 one year later, and in 2015, will reach $9.00 an hour as recommended by President Obama and the Assembly Majority.
Silver noted that major changes were made to strengthen the state's Unemployment Insurance Fund that will return the fund to financial solvency, increase worker unemployment benefits and reduce employer costs.
"The Unemployment Insurance Fund is a very important component of the safety net of social services our state provides to help New Yorkers get through tough economic times," said Silver. "The reforms to restructure the fund will help to keep it solvent and fully funded, ensuring the availability of unemployment insurance benefits well into the future," said Silver.
The fiscal plan will increase the current maximum unemployment weekly benefit by $15 for a total of $420 in 2014. This will be part of a schedule established to provide regular increases until the benefit reaches $450 in 2018. Thereafter, the maximum benefit will be based on a percentage of the state's average weekly wage beginning at 36 percent in 2019 and incrementally adjusted until it reaches 50 percent in 2026.
The restructuring of the Unemployment Insurance Fund also will provide long-term savings to businesses with a new and more realistic employer contribution schedule that will ensure the fund remains financially solvent and avoids costly and unexpected increases in employer contributions.
To protect individuals injured on the job, the budget agreement provides worker protections that would raise the minimum worker compensation benefit payment from the Worker's Compensation Fund from $100 to $150 and continue deposits into the Aggregate Trust Fund to ensure that claimants receive benefits or payments due as a result of sustaining an on the job injury.
This budget also will authorize the issuance of bonds on behalf of the Workers' Compensation Board for group self-insurer trusts to safeguard the payment of any outstanding claims to injured workers. For entities that self-insure, such as municipalities, labor organizations and other groups, this action will reduce their assessment to make it more affordable for them to purchase worker compensation coverage for their employees.
In addition, the budget will close the Fund for Reopened Cases, which will reduce the cost of Worker Compensation Fund assessments that employers are required to pay, resulting in millions of dollars in savings.