Governor Cuomo Announces Proposal to Boost Partial Unemployment Benefits as part of the 2021 State of the State
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a proposal to boost partial Unemployment Insurance benefits to New Yorkers who return to work part-time as part of the 2021 State of the State. The plan will ensure unemployed New Yorkers who accept part-time work are not penalized by basing their partial unemployment benefits on the hours they actually work, rather than the number of days they work in a given week. This change will inject more money into New York's economy while helping businesses fill part-time positions.
Legislation to be submitted with the Executive Budget will permanently enact a Partial UI 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 underway.
Since the start of the COVID pandemic in March 2020, New York State has distributed over $62 billion in unemployment benefits to 4 million New Yorkers - representing over 29 typical years' worth of benefits paid in just ten months. This includes over $1 billion paid during the week of January 4, 2021 to New Yorkers through newly-extended federal unemployment programs, which New York implemented weeks ahead of most other states.
"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 I am immediately directing the Department of Labor to change outdated rules so as we build back from the pandemic, unemployed New Yorkers aren't penalized for taking part time jobs," Governor Cuomo said.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."
New York State Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said, "I applaud Governor Cuomo for moving this proposal forward. No New Yorker should be discouraged from taking part-time work for fear of losing critical benefits when they are trying to do what is necessary to provide for their families and transition back into the workforce full-time. This new plan is an important pathway for our workforce, our businesses, and our communities."
Under current law, unemployed New Yorkers' weekly benefits are reduced by 25 percent for each day an individual works, regardless of the hours worked — unfairly penalizing those who accept part-time jobs. This meant that anyone who worked four or more days - even if they only worked one hour per day - would have to forfeit their entire weekly benefit.
In order to fix this illogical system of partial unemployment, Governor Cuomo will direct the Department of Labor 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 new method of calculating partial benefits is outlined below:
- New Yorkers who work between zero and four hours in a week and earn no more than $504 will receive their full unemployment benefit;
- New Yorkers who work between four and ten hours in a week and earn no more than $504 will receive 75 percent of their unemployment benefit;
- New Yorkers who work between ten and 20 hours in a week and earn no more than $504 will receive half of their unemployment benefit;
- New Yorkers who work between 20 and 30 hours in a week and earn no more than $504 will receive 25 percent of their unemployment benefit;
- New Yorkers who work over 30 hours in a week, regardless of earnings, will not receive any of their unemployment benefit.
New Yorkers will still be required to submit weekly certifications online or over the phone to receive their benefits each week. However, to allow the DOL to immediately implement this change, claimants will use a formula to convert the number of hours they work into a number of "days" to report when certifying.
When DOL's certification system asks for the number of days worked, New Yorkers will add together the total number of hours they worked during a given week and use the following chart to determine how their weekly hours worked translates to the number of days they should report when certifying.
The changes will go into effect for work done on or after Monday, January 18, 2021, which unemployed New Yorkers certify for starting on Sunday, January 24, 2021.
When totaling hours for the week, claimants should use a maximum of 10 hours per day, even if they worked more hours during a day.
In order to implement this reform and support unemployed New Yorkers, Governor Cuomo will launch a Workforce Forward Strike Team, which will bring together experts from the DOL, the Governor's Workforce Development Office and the Empire State Development Corporation to connect unemployed New Yorkers seeking part-time employment with small businesses that are looking for part-time workers. The strike team will also help businesses develop strategies to utilize the flexibility part-time workers provide as they build back from the pandemic.
In addition, Governor Cuomo will direct the DOL to strengthen its Shared Work Program, which enables employers to avoid layoffs by allowing workers to receive partial Unemployment Insurance benefits while working reduced hours. This program, which has been in place since 1986, became a vital lifeline for businesses across the state as they made temporary staff reductions in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
Under Governor Cuomo's leadership, the DOL has already reduced required paperwork and improved the plan approval and certification processes, enabling the Shared Work Program to handle a 10-fold increase in the number of plans in 2020 — helping more than 60,000 New Yorkers stay at work during the pandemic. In the coming year, the DOL will conduct targeted outreach efforts and implement new technology that will make it easier for employers to learn about and participate in this critical program.