Virus-Outbreak-Unemployment-Benefit

Pedestrians pass an office location June 11, 2020, for the New York State Department of Labor in the Queens borough of New York.

(The Center Square) – As New York continues its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the key concerns moving forward is improving the state’s high unemployment rate. Some are hopeful enforcement of the work search requirement will help drive that number down.

With an 8.2% unemployment rate in April, New York is tied with New Mexico with the third-highest rate in the country and more than two percentage points higher than the national average of 6.1 percent. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 778,389 people unemployed ranks second only to California’s nearly 1.6 million workers out of a job.

Last week, the New York Department of Labor tweeted a reminder that most New Yorkers getting weekly unemployment benefits need to show proof of three work search activities each week. Those activities must be done on different days.

The state requires one step includes either going to or calling a career center, applying for a job, attending a job search seminar or networking event or interviewing for a position.

Other acceptable steps include applying for a job with an old employer, registering with a job placement firm, conducting a job search and taking a civil service examination for a public-sector job.

“If you do not search for work, document your work search, and submit proof if asked, you could lose your benefits and have to pay back benefits & penalties,” the state agency tweeted.

There are exceptions for people who lost a job because their employer closed or reduced operations because of COVID and they’ve been notified they will be called back upon reopening.

Greg Biryla, senior state director for NFIB in New York, told The Center Square the work search requirement is “a positive step” in getting the state back to pre-coronavirus productivity levels and beyond that.

With Gov. Andrew Cuomo lifting restrictions earlier this week as the state hit its one-dose vaccination goal of 70%, Biryla said the next challenge will be for employers, in particular small businesses, can hire the workers they need.

NFIB’s national report last month indicated a record 48% of small business owners had job openings they could not fill.

“Filling jobs and returning employees to the workplace is critical in many of the industries hit hardest during the pandemic, including bars, restaurants, retail, tourism, hospitality, lodging, amusement, and entertainment,” he said. “Many of these types of small, independent businesses thrive during the summer season across New York and will continue to find themselves in peril if forced to limit their operations because of labor scarcity.”

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