Legal Alert

New York: Unemployment Compensation Update

by the Labor and Employment Group
April 24, 2020

The New York State Department of Labor, Division of Unemployment Insurance (NYS DOL) has implemented new procedures and temporary policy changes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and federal legislation implementing the CARES Act.

New York State Unemployment Benefits

The typical weekly benefit amount for traditional unemployment benefits in New York is calculated based on recent employment earnings for a maximum of $504 per week. A benefit calculator is available on NYS DOL’s website.

Applicants receiving traditional unemployment benefits will also receive an additional $600 per week in Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC) under the CARES Act. These payments will be made for each week the applicant receives unemployment benefits for the period beginning April 5, 2020 and ending July 31, 2020. Applicants receiving traditional unemployment benefits will automatically receive the additional PUC payments for each eligible week for which they receive unemployment benefits.

CARES Act Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)

Under the federal CARES Act, expanded Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits are also available.

PUA benefits extend to include many individuals who are not covered by traditional unemployment insurance in New York and who are prevented from working due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes independent contractors, 1099 workers, self-employed individuals, farmers, those who perform work for app-based service providers like Uber and Lyft, other gig workers, and individuals with insufficient work history to qualify for traditional unemployment benefits.

Individuals who have expired claims or have exhausted their traditional unemployment benefits may also receive PUA benefits. PUA is available to pay up to an additional 13 weeks beyond the 26 weeks that are typically available (39 weeks total).

PUA benefits may also cover employees who remain sick with COVID-19, are under quarantine, or who have COVID-19 symptoms beyond the time that federal Emergency Paid Sick Leave or Family Medical Leave covers. PUA may also cover some employees who work for employers that are exempt from paying federal Emergency Paid Sick Leave or Family Medical Leave if the employees are unable to work due to COVID-19 reasons.

The amount of PUA benefits are based on previous reported income, with a minimum benefit ranging from $172-$182 per week depending on the period to a maximum benefit of $504 per week. PUA benefits are available from January 27, 2020 and run from the date of the employment loss due to COVID-19 factors. Applicants eligible to receive benefits will also receive an additional $600 per week in PUC benefits under the CARES Act for the period beginning April 5, 2020 and ending July 31, 2020.

New System for New Claims

Effective April 20, 2020, NYS DOL has implemented a new system for processing unemployment claims, including claims for PUA benefits. New applicants should now apply using the new system. Previously, individuals were required to apply for traditional unemployment benefits and be rejected before applying for PUA. All new applicants will be able to fill out one form to get the correct benefits.

Individuals with existing unemployment claims and those who stopped claiming benefits before they exhausted the 26 weeks of traditional unemployment benefits should request benefits using the existing system. These applicants will automatically receive the additional $600 per week in PUC payments for each eligible week for which they receive unemployment benefits.

The NYS DOL is mailing letters with more details and instructions to individuals whose benefits expired after July 1, 2019, or who have already exhausted their 26 weeks of traditional unemployment benefits. These individuals typically will need to use the new system to request the additional 13 weeks of PUA benefits now available.

Work Force Reductions

  • New York’s Shared Work Program provides employers with an alternative to laying off employees by allowing employees to keep working with fewer hours and collect part of their regular unemployment benefits. To qualify, employers must design and obtain approval for a shared work plan.
  • Furloughed employees and certain employees who have received pay reductions may be eligible for full or partial unemployment benefits if their hours are eliminated or reduced to fewer than four days per week and they are earning less than $504 per week.

Other Changes

  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, NYS DOL is waiving the seven-day waiting period for unemployment insurance benefits for people who are out of work due to COVID-19 closures or quarantines.

NYS DOL posts regular press releases about updates, which can be found here.

Copyright © 2020 by Ballard Spahr LLP.
(No claim to original U.S. government material.)

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of the author and publisher.

This alert is a periodic publication of Ballard Spahr LLP and is intended to notify recipients of new developments in the law. It should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only, and you are urged to consult your own attorney concerning your situation and specific legal questions you have.

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